Comparisons between the flu and COVID-19 have been commonplace particularly via social media, but there’s at least one very big difference between the two, Gov. Doug Burgum said on Tuesday.
“But if you have the flu, whatever age you are, you generally know it because if you have the flu you feel bad, you got flu-like symptoms and you are probably feeling such a way that you would probably choose to stay home versus you know try to tough it out or go someplace,” he said.
But with coronavirus between 50 to 70 percent of those under age 30 experience such mild symptoms, they may not even realize they have it.
These individuals are still contagious, Burgum said, despite not feeling sick. They can still give the disease to someone who is vulnerable to adverse, even fatal outcomes. That’s mainly those 65 or older, or those who have an underlying health condition like asthma, heart disease, obesity, depressed immune systems, and the like.
The disparity in risk is very different from the flu, and from any other contagious illnesses in the past.
In North Dakota, 58 percent of the state’s confirmed cases are between the ages of 20 to 49. Meanwhile 62 percent of the deaths were people over age 80.
“That is why it’s important for you to know your status,” Burgum said. “Particularly if you are young and healthy, we appreciate that a lot of young and healthy people came to get tested. And particularly if you are planning on close contact with vulnerable populations, we encourage everyone to continue to take advantage of free testing opportunities as they are available.”
Unlike the national rhetoric suggesting decreasing testing, Burgum said federal officials on phone calls today stressed the importance of continued testing, particularly for younger people who may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Since many of those may have COVID-19 without being aware of it, they are at highest risk of becoming a super spreader.
“Everything we have heard and seen is consistent with the idea that we need to test,” Burgum said.
North Dakota reported 198 new cases of COVID-19 since June 16 out of 22,865 tests, Burgum said, which gave it a positive rate of just .9 percent.
That’s the lowest the testing rate has been since the beginning stages of the pandemic, Burgum said, and the state remains in good shape as far as its capacity to care for any spikes in COVID-19 cases.
It has just 234 active cases for the week, and 28 people have been hospitalized, which is only 1 to 2 percent of the state’s existing hospital capacity.
Four more people died, Burgum said, bringing the state’s death toll to 78 people.
The deaths were a man in his 60s and a woman in her 90s from Cass County, a man in his 60s from Stutsman, and a woman in her 40s from Cass County. All of them had an underlying health condition.
A data processing issue has slowed the release of some test results, Burugm said. The problem is fixed, and that data will be reported out soon.
Contact tracing, meanwhile, is getting a boost thanks to a public-private partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. It has agreed to help the state notify up to 1,000 individuals per week of negative test results. That will free up more time for the contact tracing team to focus on positive cases.
Burgum has amended his executive order that extended the expiration of driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registrations indefinitely from March 1.
The coronavirus grace period will be ending Aug. 31.
The state has nearly 70,000 transactions to finalize between now and then to bring those licenses and registrations up to date.
Those who are renewing at this time may also obtain a REAL ID, Burgum added. That will be a requirement to enter certain buildings and fly on airplanes starting in October of next year.