Gov. Doug Burgum announced that the state’s mask mandate and business capacity limits would be lifted, with the orders expiring next week.
Due to the state’s declining COVID numbers, Burgum said that his office is allowing the State Health Officer’s statewide mask requirement be expire on Monday, Jan 18 at 8 a.m., and that an executive order limiting capacity for bars, restaurants and event venues would also be modified effective 8 a.m., changing business capacity limits and other ND Smart Restart protocols from requirements to guidelines or recommendations. Burgum said the statewide risk level will remain at moderate.
Burgum was joined by North Dakota Department of Health Immunization Program Manager Molly Howell and Dr. Joshua Ranum of West River Health Services in Hettinger to discuss the state’s COVID-19 numbers and vaccine distribution.
Burgum stated that the state’s numbers had been improving since mid-November, when additional measures were implemented. Since then, active cases have dropped by over 80 percent, from 10,224 to 1,675; hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have decreased by nearly 74 percent, and the state’s 14-day test positivity rate is down about one-fourth from its peak, at 4.13 percent today, its lowest percentage since late August. Burgum added that a Johns Hopkins University study showed North Dakota’s seven-day positivity rate as fourth-lowest rate in the nation, at 4.7 percent.
The governor said the state’s new three-pronged approach for handling COVID in North Dakota will be another tool in the battle to keep the state’s positive numbers down.
“Our case numbers and hospital capacity have improved dramatically in North Dakota over the past two months, and with three new tools we didn’t have last fall – vaccines, rapid tests and effective therapeutics – we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “However, this fight isn’t over, and we need all North Dakotans to continue to exercise personal responsibility, follow protocols and keep wearing masks where physical distancing isn’t possible. The day will come when we can take off our masks and throw them away with confidence, but only if we do what’s needed now to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe.”
Howell took to the podium after Burgum, sharing an update on the state’s vaccine distribution. Howell noted that out of 50 states, North Dakota ranks second in the percentage of received vaccine doses administered fourth in first doses administered per capita, with 52,433 doses administered as of Jan 14.
Burgum noted that cities and counties may continue to have mask requirements in place, and the state supports those locally enacted protocols.
“We still strongly support mask-wearing as part of the important work we need to do to contain this virus and to maintain the strong position that we are in,” he stated.
Guest speaker Dr. Joshua Ranum of West River Health Services in Hettinger stressed the importance of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to immediately ask their doctors if they’re a candidate for early treatment with monoclonal antibody therapies that have been shown to reduce mortality and the need for hospitalization. Ranum said that monoclonal antibody therapy has shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID from 10 percent to around 3.5 percent.
“While not a cure for COVID-19, these antibody infusions can shift the advantage back in favor of the patient,” Ranum said. “I believe the inclusion of monoclonal antibodies to our list of treatment options will be a turning point, along with vaccination, in our fight against COVID-19.”
Burgum ended the conference with a thanks to the state’s residents for their part in helping to reduce the state’s active cases.
“Thank you to all North Dakotans who’ve been doing a great job, that helped us be in this position today, which is really a strong position relative to the rest of the nation,” he said. “Let’s keep up the great work.”
Strong winds that started Wednesday may have set a record and caused damage around the area, including affecting travel statewide.
A high-wind warning was in effect through 6 a.m. Friday, Jan. 15, and the National Weather Service Bismarck Office predicted winds between 35 and 40 mph with gusts as high as 70 mph.
The wind prompted the North Dakota Highway Patrol to urge all motorists to travel with care during the winds.
“During these conditions, high-profile, long-load type, and permitted over dimensional vehicles have restricted travel,” a statement from the NDHP read. “North Dakota law restricts movement for these vehicles when wind or other conditions may cause the vehicle or attachment to swerve, whip, sway, or fail to follow in the path of the towing vehicle.”
There were reports of damage to shingles and fences countywide, according to Lindsey Harriman, communications and research analyst for Williams County. There were also brief power outages Wednesday night and Thursday morning, including in Wildrose and Grenora.
The wind might also have set a record, with a gust of 93 mph recorded at 2:23 a.m. on Thursday. That was recorded at Williston Basin International Airport.
The previous record gust was 65.2 mph, recorded once in 1995 and once in 2005.
It wasn’t clear Thursday how the 93 mph speed should be compared to the previous speeds, as they were recorded at Sloulin Field, while the new speed was captured at the new airport about 1o miles north of Williston.
The wind was strong enough to close the Williston Landfill and stop trash collection on Thursday, as well.
Motorists can access road and weather information by visiting https://travel.dot.nd.gov/. The map has a feature that displays wind speeds reported by the National Weather Service.
The coronavirus pandemic led to a 52 percent decline in airline passengers in 2020, according to a North Dakota Aeronautics Commission report.
The state’s eight commercial service airports finished the year with a statewide total of 572,093 airline passenger boardings, a decrease of 619,476 passengers from 2019 and the lowest passenger count that the state has recorded since 2003. North Dakota passenger numbers have been down since the beginning of the pandemic when the state experienced an immediate 95 percent decline in passenger numbers during the month of April. Since that time, the state has been trending in a positive direction and has recovered to approximately 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
“2020 was a challenging year for airports across the country,” XWA Airport Director Anthony Dudas told the Williston Herald. “But as the country really began to rebound, and it’s very slowly rebounding as far as travel is concerned, we saw really positive growth in our passenger traffic. While it is still very minimal, we are cautiously optimistic that that growth will continue.”
The NDAC stated that recent demand has encouraged airlines to begin slowly adding back flights and seat capacity to the state’s airports, which Dudas mentioned as well, as United Airlines began offering additional flights at XWA again in October.
The Aeronautics Commission stated that North Dakota still has a high level of air service availability based upon historical standards, as the state’s airports still provide the public with 10 non-stop destinations. All eight of the commercial service airports in North Dakota also continue to provide their communities with jet service.
“Our airports rose to the challenge that this past year brought for the aviation industry which resulted in significant negative impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” stated Kyle Wanner, executive director of the commission. “Our airports never closed and they quickly worked to implement recommended mitigations to help ensure that a safe environment exists for those who need to travel. They were also able to accommodate emergency related personnel and products to efficiently enter and depart our state. As we look forward to 2021, I remain optimistic that airline passenger numbers will continue their current positive trend towards recovery.”
Williston’s airport reported 31,525 passenger boardings for 2020, a significant change from the 88,235 boardings in 2019. Still, despite the pandemic driving numbers down, Dudas said there were many positives at XWA in 2020.
“With the challenges our community has faced as part of this COVID pandemic, we still finished the year strong,” he said.
Dudas said XWA showed a 13 percent increase in December boardings, and also noted the airport’s XWA PASS program, newly opened Customs and Border Protection facility and crosswind runway as other notable successes for the year.
Looking towards the future, Dudas said he is again “cautiously optimistic” that travel numbers will continue to increase. He added that talks are still ongoing with Delta Airlines to resume service at XWA, and the hope is that they and other carriers will come to the area in the coming year.
“There are opportunities on the horizon for our community, and our city leadership has a great vision for our future here at XWA and for air service in our community.” Dudas said.
A new gas processing facility west of Williston is finished — just eight months after workers broke ground.
Outrigger Energy II LLC announced this week that it has finished construction the Bill Sanderson Gas Processing Plant and pipelines. The plant can process 250 MMcf of natural gas daily. The pipelines are and 80-mile, 20 and 24-inch diameter, rich gas gathering system originating in eastern Williams County and terminating at the Bill Sanderson Plant.
The plant features ethane recovery and rejection capabilities with direct market access to the Northern Border Pipeline system for residue gas and the ONEOK NGL pipeline system for natural gas liquids. The assets are anchored by a long-term gas gathering and processing agreement with XTO Energy Inc. The gathering system can transport over 450 MMcfd of raw gas. Outrigger will expand the plant’s capacity based on producer needs, according to a news release announcing the completion of the project..
Dave Keanini, Outrigger’s CEO, praised the speed of the project as well as the end result.
“We are exceptionally proud of our team who worked diligently within a very ambitious schedule and were able to successfully execute the project, even through the COVID-19 global pandemic,” he said. “We delivered the project on time – in less than eight months from groundbreaking – for our anchor customer and under budget for our investors. The high-capacity state-of-the-art facilities will assist XTO with the execution of its development plans. While Williston Basin activity levels clearly slowed due to the 2020 crude oil pricing and COVID-19 environments, we are seeing substantial interest from producers to accommodate future drilling plans as crude oil prices near sustainable levels for the Basin. Our assets are perfectly situated to provide producers with a competitive midstream option for both new development and volumes that are currently flaring due to infrastructure constraints.”
The announcement came just before the release of statewide oil and gas production numbers from November.
The state produced 86,622,059 MCF of gas, or 2, 887,402 MCF per day on average. The capture percentage was 80,397,044 MCF, or 93%, the same as October.
The daily production was down from 3,145,172 MCF per day in November 2019.
Oil production was 36,736,201 barrels produced, or 1,224,540 barrels per day. In October, the state produced 38,162,494 barrels of oil, or 1,231,048 barrels per day.
There is uncertainty on the market as an agreed cut to oil production by OPEC+ nations is set to expire on Jan. 31. Also, demand has started to climb but is still low.
“Liquid fuel demand bottomed out in August, and is recovering slowly and unevenly, but is not expected to return to 2019 levels until 2022,” Lynn Helms, director of the Oil and Gas Division, wrote in a monthly report.
The 40th Annual Williston Basin API Chili Cook-Off is set for March 27 at the Raymond Family Community Center in Williston,
The event is one of two major fundraising activities for the Williston Basin API Chapter. Proceeds from our 2020 fundraisers were used to fund numerous other groups and activities in the local and surrounding communities.
The cookoff will run from 3 to 11 p.m. and admission is $10, and guests must be 21 to attend. The doors open at 3 p.m., live music kicks off at 4 p.m. and the chili will be served at 5 p.m.
API is looking for sponsors for the event. Anyone interested in sponsoring the Chili Cook-off can visit WillistonAPI.com/Chili.
Sponsorship opportunities range from the $100 Bronze level to the $1,000 Black Gold level, as well as sponsorships of the trophies and the band.
In addition to sponsorships, the group is also interested in donated items for use as door prizes.
If you have any questions, please contact Ken Callahan at email@example.com.