Special Report

COVID-19: Fargo, ND-MN Metro Area Among the Most Dangerous in America

The U.S. reported over 17,000 new cases of coronavirus on May 18, bringing the total count to more than 32.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have been more than 580,000 COVID-19-related deaths — the highest death toll of any country.

New cases continue to rise at a steady rate. In the past week, there were an average of 13.2 daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 Americans — essentially unchanged from the week prior, when there were an average of 14.9 daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.

While new data shows that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is high in almost every part of the country, cities continue to be the sites of major outbreaks and superspreader events. Experts agree that the virus is more likely to spread in group settings where large numbers of people routinely have close contact with one another, such as colleges, nursing homes, bars, and restaurants. Metropolitan areas with a high degree of connectivity between different neighborhoods and a large population may be particularly at-risk.

The Fargo, ND-MN metro area consists of Cass County and Clay County. As of May 18, there were 13,604.5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 Fargo residents, the 22nd highest rate of all 383 metro areas with available data. For comparison, the U.S. has so far reported 10,103.1 cases per 100,000 Americans nationwide.

The incidence of coronavirus cases depends on a variety of factors and can vary even between neighboring counties. Within the Fargo metro area, Cass County has the highest incidence of COVID-19 cases. As of May 18, there were 13,866.9 cases per 100,000 residents in Cass County, the most of any county in Fargo, yet not too far from the county with the lowest incidence. In Clay County, there were 12,872.4 cases per 100,000 residents — the least of any county in Fargo.

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, city and county governments have ordered the closure of thousands of consumer-facing businesses. These measures have led to widespread job loss and record unemployment. In the Fargo metro area, unemployment peaked at 7.7% in April 2020. As of March 2021, the metro area’s unemployment rate was 3.3%.

To determine how the incidence of COVID-19 in the Fargo, ND-MN metro area compares to the rest of the country, 24/7 Wall St. compiled and reviewed data from state and local health departments. We ranked metro areas based on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.To estimate the incidence of COVID-19 at the metropolitan level, we aggregated data from the county level using boundary definitions from the U.S. Census Bureau. Population data used to adjust case and death totals came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey and are five-year estimates. Unemployment data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is seasonally adjusted.

These are all the counties in North Dakota where COVID-19 is slowing (and where it’s still getting worse).

FIPS MSA Population Confirmed COVID-19 cases as of May. 18 Confirmed COVID-19 cases as of May. 18 per 100,000 residents Cumulative COVID-19 deaths as of May. 18 Cumulative COVID-19 deaths as of May. 18 per 100,000 residents
22020 Fargo, ND-MN 240,421 32,708 13,604.5 300 124.8
24220 Grand Forks, ND-MN 101,745 14,481 14,232.6 145 142.5
13900 Bismarck, ND 127,503 21,217 16,640.4 294 230.6