Effective Nov. 16, 2020, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has signed an executive order with steps and measures to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In compliance with State Health Officer Order 2020-08, face coverings must be worn in all indoor public spaces as well as all outdoor spaces where physical distancing of six feet or more is not possible. This order comes as North Dakota’s 14-day average positive test rate has doubled in the past month to 15.6%. Active cases of COVID-19 have also doubled in ND since Oct. 20th, Burgum announced on Nov. 13, 2020.
Burgum mimicked the words of NDSU President Dean Bresciani when he encouraged families to limit Thanksgiving and social gatherings to only the immediate household and to wear a mask if gathering with people from outside the household. NDSU students are encouraged to stay on campus or in Fargo during Thanksgiving break. As Burgum said, small social gatherings with family and friends are driving a significant portion of the current COVID-19 surge.
“Despite consistent efforts to promote widespread use of face coverings and physical distancing as public health measures, many North Dakotans continue to congregate without face coverings or physical distancing; in these settings one individual can infect many others,” Burgum said in his executive order.
Occupancy of banquet, ballroom and event venues is limited to 25% occupancy. Bars, restaurants and food service establishments are limited to 50% of licensed seating capacity, not to exceed a maximum of 150 patrons. In-person dining and service may not be conducted between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., but drive-thru, curbside and deliveries may proceed like normal.
All high school winter sports and extracurricular activities are suspended until Dec. 14, 2020. Collegiate and intercollegiate activities follow guidelines issued by the North Dakota University System.
“Now we stand at a critical juncture in our fight against this pandemic. Our state is caught in the middle of a skyrocketing national COVID-19 storm,” Burgum said. “Capacity is strained across our health care system, jeopardizing the ability of our hospitals to provide first-rate treatment – not only for COVID-19 patients but also for those seeking care for heart attacks, strokes, cancer, trauma and other urgent needs.”
As of Nov. 17, there are 10,022 active positives in ND including 1,524 active positives in Cass County. North Dakota is leading in coronavirus cases per capita with 180.9 cases per 100,000 people, followed by South Dakota with 161.4 cases per 100,000.
Burgum expressed concerns over hospital bed capacity and a shortage of nurses and hospital staff. To address these staffing issues, Burgum announced that asymptomatic, COVID-19 positive health care workers may work in COVID units of health care facilities. As long as they remain asymptomatic and follow CDC and ND Department of Health guidelines.
“Face coverings are the most cost-effective way to limit the spread of the virus if you are unable to physically distance,” Burgum said. “Wearing masks when around others is our path to economic freedom and a faster return to our normal lives.”
Burgum emphasized that these are state-wide requirements rather than simply recommendations. Unlike Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney’s mask mandate, Burgum’s mask mandate is an executive order that allows violators to be cited with an infraction by law enforcement agencies. However, Burgum encouraged law enforcement officers to prioritize education and warnings about the risk of transmission and to reserve penalties for the most egregious violations that put public health at risk.
“We believe in North Dakotans. We believe in the power of individual responsibility. And we need individual responsibility now more than ever to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Burgum said.
Pfizer and Moderna have each announced their own coronavirus vaccines with more than 90% effectiveness in clinical trials. Pfizer is a pharmaceutical company that developed its vaccine along with its German partner, BioNTech. Moderna is a biotechnology firm that worked in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Pfizer has said that it will work with four states – New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas and Tennessee – to help roll out the vaccine. Both companies still need to submit their clinical testing results to the Food and Drug Administration before they can be widely distributed.