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Bismarck mayor urges wearing masks as coronavirus cases rise

BISMARCK (AP) — The mayor of North Dakota’s capital city on Tuesday appealed to residents to wear masks as the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in the metropolitan area topped 1,000 and the number of active cases statewide hit a new high.

“We can only beat this virus if we are united as a community to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken said in a statement.

North Dakota health officials reported 149 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday and two new deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 107. Health officials reported the victims were a man in his 60s from Griggs County and a woman in her 70s from Sioux County, and both had underlying health conditions.

State data shows they were the first COVID-19 related deaths in each county.

Officials said 4,904 tests were processed in the past day, for a total of nearly 330,000. A total of 6,933 people have tested positive for the virus and 51 people were hospitalized Tuesday, up five from the day before.

North Dakota reported 1,111 active cases on Tuesday — a number that has about quadrupled in the past month, and coincides with the reopening of the state’s economy and increased testing. Forty-eight of North Dakota’s 53 counties had at least one active case on Tuesday.

Officials said 29 of the new cases were in Burleigh County and 11 were in neighboring Morton County.

Gov. Doug Burgum last week announced the formation of a task force to investigate the spread of the coronavirus in the Bismarck metropolitan area, the state’s current COVID-19 hot spot.

A Burleigh-Morton task force will operate like the one he announced in May in Cass County and Fargo metropolitan area, where local leaders and others successfully concentrated on beefing up testing efforts, particularly in long-term care facilities.