How public officials are responding to the rise in numbers
As the fall temperatures begin to drop, North Dakota’s Covid-19 cases reach an all-time high not only for the state, but the entire country.
The past few months have not been very promising for North Dakota. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), North Dakota has set the national record for the highest rate of infections per capita – 3,808/ 100,000, and deaths per capita – 48/ 100,000 as of Oct. 14. The state is second in the nation for testing per capita – 92,891/ 100,000.
North Dakota has also set a state record for active cases every day since Sept. 21. The new case total has reached 28,947 coronavirus cases, and a total of 365 deaths as of Oct. 14 according to the CDC. Within the last week, there have been 4,090 cases recorded.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is pushing for mask-wearing but still refuses to mandate masks as he hopes the residents will take personal responsibility to do what they can to protect others and maintain their freedom while doing so.
“With Covid-19, you can put other people at risk, but we know from research that it’s not very motivating,” Carrie Anne Platt, an associate professor of communication at North Dakota State University, told the Herald.
North Dakota is one of the fewer than 20 states that still has not required a mask mandate and who refuses to follow restrictions offered by health officials. The state’s health officials have struggled to convince the public that the situation is urgent and that the limits and restrictions like mask-wearing makes sense according to the New York Times.
The upward trend of cases per capita is not just happening in North Dakota but in states such as Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin. While Montana requires masks to be worn in counties that have 4 or more active cases and Wisconsin has an indoor mask mandate for their residents, North Dakota and South Dakota leave it up to the people and businesses to decide how they will restrict themselves, even though they are the top two increasing states in the country according to the CDC.
Because the cases have gone up so rapidly, the hospitals are overwhelmed with the incoming patients and the lack of beds to keep up with them. According to the New York Times, there were only 39 staffed intensive care units (ICU) beds available across the entire state as of Oct. 7.
Recently, the number of ICU beds left in the state is less than 20 as of Oct. 10 according to the Cable News Network (CNN). Gov. Burgum has said that the hospitals are well equipped to handle the situation.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the New York Times. “There are other conditions – diabetic emergencies, other types of infectious diseases that require ICU space, and there’s not a lot of slack if you only have that many intensive care unit beds.”
As the temperatures become lower and lower and it gets to the point where it is so cold that going outside is no longer an option, people are going to want to do activities indoors. Without social distancing restrictions, a mask mandate, or avoiding congregating indoors, there could be a possibility that the cases could keep increasing.
From what health officials say, the power lies within the people to turn this trend in the downward direction. If data like this doesn’t convince people to change their minds, North Dakotans may have to prepare for a dreadful winter.