College students on a rented party bus and socializing among athletes on the same team or among coworkers on construction sites in the oilfield have been among recent new cases of COVID-19, Gov. Doug Burgum said Wednesday, July 22, as the state reported a new high for daily cases and hospitalizations.

Burgum said many of the new coronavirus cases that the state’s contract tracers followed reflect moments when people forgot to observe “North Dakota smart” guidelines, and illustrate the importance of continuing to maintain a six-feet distance from others, or wearing a mask if that is not possible.

“Remember again this is not like the flu,” Burgum added. “This is something where you can be someone who is spreading it and not even have symptoms and, so, again, the distancing, and if you are not able to distance, wearing a mask are those things that can help slow the spread.”

North Dakota reported 160 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, the highest daily total so far, and 52 hospitalizations, also a new high. The number of active cases has now climbed to a new high, 864.

However, a large batch of tests failed on Monday. Samples from those individuals had to be put through the testing machine again. Therefore, Monday and Tuesday results have in actuality been combined into one day.

The daily positivity rate is 3 percent, looked at that way, Burgum said. A trend line of the percent positivity rate also shows that the state’s number of active cases is climbing faster than the increases in overall testing.

“It’s not the time to panic,” Burgum said, “But we need to say we gotta continue to be smart.”

Among the things people can do to be smart, he added, is wear a mask whenever social distancing is not possible.

Burgum waded into the national discussion around masks Wednesday afternoon with a few of his own mask “memes.” These were slides from a study that showed, using laser light, how far aerosols travel from a sneeze with and without a mask.

Without, the plume traveled 6 feet in 11 seconds and 12 feet in 53 seconds. With the mask, however, the plume went only 3 percent of the distance compared to an uncovered cough.

“You can find all kinds of things saying masks don’t work, the particles are too small, they can go through even the very best masks, but hey, it’s a very practical thing,” Burgum said.

And it’s a practical thing that goes way back before pre-pandemic days.

“We always told people during flu season to cover your cough,” Burgum said. “Cough into your elbow, not into your hand. These were things that existed in public health pre-pandemic because this is the same way you might give someone the flu.”

Burgum said masks, ultimately, are a very practical step, regardless of materials, and despite whatever may leak from the top or the bottom.

“The masked air particles traveled just 3 percent the distance compared to the uncovered cough,” Burgum said. “So again any kind of face covering is a plus so once we get into thanking people for wearing masks, we can thank them for wearing any kind of mask. Whatever logo whatever quality homemade not homemade whatever.”

Burgum referenced mask use at least 21 times during the press conference, stressing the importance of their use when social distancing is impossible, and said they are one of the tools that can not only help businesses remain open, but allow schools to reopen in the fall, and many other activities and things that people want to get back to.

Burgum said he is not at this point looking at walking back any of the re-opening, but he continued to appeal to people to be “North Dakota” smart, to not get tired of following CDC guidelines, now more than ever.

“From contact tracing, we know people are not necessarily following the guidelines,” Burgum said, adding that the recent increase in hospitalizations is an early warning signal to everyone to continue taking the COVID-19 precautions seriously.

“It’s still here, and we need to follow the basics on how to not make it spread,” he said.

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