North Dakota’s numbers all seem to be moving the wrong way when it comes to COVID-19, but Gov. Doug Burgum said he thinks a combination of improved messaging from the government and better prevention from residents can change that.
Burgum spoke at a news conference Tuesday, July 28, about the pandemic. Tuesday was the third consecutive day active COVID-19 cases were over 1,000 and was the day the state’s 100th COVID-related death was reported.
A woman in her 20s from McKenzie County died after being diagnosed with COVID-19. She did not have underlying health conditions. Of the 102 people who have died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the McKenzie County woman is the youngest and only the third with no underlying health conditions.
As of Tuesday, 88 of those deaths were primarily caused by COVID-19, according to the North Dakota Health Department’s summary of death certificates. There were 10 deaths were COVID-19 was not listed as the primary cause on the death certificate and four cases are still pending.
The majority of the cases are in people in their 20s and 30s, Burgum said. Because many of them want to socialize, whether that’s going to a bar, a wedding, a party or something else, it can lead to a fast spread. And the virus can move beyond that person’s social circle.
“We know there are cases where people might have been at a bar, but they also work in a long term care setting,” Burgum said during Tuesday’s news conference.
The state’s average positive test rate for July 27 was 3.6%, higher than it’s been since May. Nearly 1,000 new cases were confirmed between July 21 and July 27, and as of Wednesday, there were 1,038 active cases.
The state is particularly concerned about Burleigh and Morton, which have a higher positive rate and more cases than elsewhere. In response, the state is starting a task force focused on controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the two counties, similar to the one started earlier this year to focus on Cass County.
Even with the spike both statewide and in Burleigh and Morton counties, most counties in the state still fall into the low-risk category the state has been in for weeks. For now, the state isn’t going to change to the moderate risk category.
Much of the focus of the task force is going to be education about the steps people can take to slow the spread of the disease. That means an emphasis on following social distancing rules and wearing a mask in public spaces. Both are relatively simple and inexpensive, and people should look to those methods before just about anything else, Burgum said.
If those people are exposed and then don’t isolate, it can cause serious illness in some people and even kill some.
COVID-19 appears to be far more dangerous to people with some kind of underlying health problem, Burgum said, but the only way to make sure those people aren’t exposed is by controlling the spread as much as possible. That means following CDC guidelines — what Burgum refers to as being North Dakota Smart — such as staying six or more feet away from others or wearing a cloth face covering when that isn’t possible, frequent hand washing and others.
“We really need all North Dakotans to do their part,” he said.