North Dakota’s per capita rate of testing remains among the top 10 in the nation, while its rate of positives is hovering around 3.2 percent or so. State traffic statistics in some areas are down 53 percent as well.
Meanwhile, eight states have both high testing rates and a low rate of positives, North Dakota among them.
New Jersey and New York have some of the highest testing rates, but also fall into the quadrant with the highest rate of positives.
Neighboring states Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota have lower rates of testing and, subsequently, are not identifying as many positive cases of COVID-19.
These, and other statistics, Gov. Doug Burgum said, suggest the state’s personal responsibility approach, along with judicious, targeted executive orders, is trending in the right direction.
“You’re always going to get anecdotal information that there was a house party here or there, but I think for the most part, the vast majority are complying,” Burgum said. The governor continues to believe the data show the public can “have confidence in how we are approaching this.”
That doesn’t mean there’s any room for “taking our eyes off the ball,” Burgum said, adding that if the data begin to show an undesirable trend, he will use every power he has to protect the health and general welfare of the public.
Social distancing, staying home if you are sick or in contact with someone who is sick, and washing hands frequently are still very important to slowing the spread of COVID-19, Burgum stressed.
“We are not eliminating the spread, we are slowing it,” he added. “That means that our curve is flatter. The key thing at the end of the day is hospital capacity.”
Burgum continues to say the state has plenty of hospital capacity for COVID-19, enough that he believes stand-up hospitals won’t be needed in North Dakota. When all areas of every hospital are expanded to care for COVID-19 patients, there are 2,600 beds, Burgum said.
How many of those beds are where, however, remains closely guarded, as do questions about how many ventilators are where. Questions about these matters have been sent to both the state’s Joint Information Center and to health care agencies in the area, and remain unanswered.
The barrage of "how we're doing" statistics during the briefing Monday, April 7, was Burgum’s answer to calls from some to tighten up or “lock down” the state to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Burgum said that would just be checking a “feel-good” box, with little to no real meaning. States with stay-home orders generally also have a long list of exceptions, which the governor said renders them meaningless.
Mandates can also have unintended consequences, Burgum suggested. He is hearing both from both those who want to tighten things up and those who want to loosen restrictions, and trying to strike a meaningful balance when it comes to public health and safety.
That said, however, Burgum did issue two new executive orders Monday, turning two of his previous recommendations into orders.
The first requires those who test positive for COVID-19 and those living in the same household with them to self quarantine for no less than 14 days.
“(This) is the least restrictive, most practical, and most effective way of separating individuals known to be contagious or exposed to COVID-19, and it is the most effective way to protect those who are unexposed or a susceptible or vulnerable individual.”
The second order suspends visitation at long-term care facilities. The only exceptions are for end of life and compassionate care. All non-essential services are suspended until further notice.
Burgum also talked about a pilot, COVID-19 testing project in North Dakota over the weekend in Slope County and in the Gladstone Fire District.
The surveillance testing is part of an effort to add to the nation’s knowledge base when it comes to areas with low spread of coronavirus. Burgum has also said this type of testing could speed containment of the virus, and is the type of testing the state would have to do to safely speed the return of individuals back to the workforce.
There was widespread interest in the drive-through tests in both locations, so much so that the state couldn’t fulfill the entire demand, Burgum said. In Slope County, 368 tests were administered and in Gladstone 367.
Some of the data from the tests conducted over the weekend were included in the state’s daily totals of COVID-19 tests Monday, April 6, and the rest will be in by Wednesday, Burgum said.
The state added 18 more positives from over the weekend, bringing its total number of COVID-19 cases to 225. There have been 32 hospitalizations, but only 19 people are currently hospitalized. Seventy-four people are listed as recovered. North Dakota has conducted 7,213 tests in all. That's nearly 9 tests per 1,000 people.
While the state’s report on Monday said three have died, Burgum reported one more person has died of COVID-19, a man in his 70s from Emmons County who had underlying health conditions. His death will be reflected in the state’s Tuesday, April 7 report.
No decision has been made about where to conduct surveillance testing next, Burgum said, but there are discussions underway with the MHA nation in an area that Burgum said is showing a higher rate of positives.