North Dakota records 697 COVID-19 deaths

North Dakota records 697 COVID-19 deaths

North Dakota has recorded nearly 700 deaths from the coronavirus, a red flag in a state with a population of 760,000 people.

As of Thursday, the state reported 11 new deaths for a total of 697. It also reported 15.3 percent rolling two-week positivity, 1,801 new positive tests and 12,995 susceptible test encounters. A total of 294 North Dakotans are currently hospitalized, an increase of 40.

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Meanwhile, the state has a total of 10,421 active cases, a decrease of 1,235 cases, according to the state Department of Health.

Earlier this week, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced that due to staffing concerns at hospitals in the state, health care workers who have tested positive but are asymptomatic will be allowed to continue working in hospital coronavirus units.

“Our health care system is under enormous pressure. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 now account for 14% of current hospitalizations in North Dakota, and hospitals are facing severe constraints in the weeks ahead,” Burgum said in a tweet Monday announcing the policy. "We need everyone to help slow the spread.”

While Burgum said positive-testing health care workers will only come into contact with patients who already have the virus, the announcement has raised eyebrows among health care workers unions.

“What about the bathrooms and the break rooms and the elevators and all of those spaces?” Tessa Johnson, the president of the North Dakota Nurses Association, told NBC News. “How are we going to keep those things clean? It’s not realistic.”