North Dakota is one of four states and a city asked to be part of a task force that will help the federal government think about how to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine once one is available.
The selection does not necessarily mean North Dakota will be first in line to receive COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Doug Burgum said, just that it will be part of helping develop an approach for distribution, which the governor said is going to be one of the biggest issues to face the nation and the world.
“This will create political, ethical, and economic challenges of enormous proportions, Burgum said.
Given that COVID-19 has such an uneven distribution of risk, Burgum said it is likely delivery will be prioritized to vulnerable populations first, rather than to particular states.
“I’m pleased that the we’re included on the ground floor to at least think about how you would think about the planning and distribution of that,” Burgum said, adding that it’s a credit to the leadership of the North Dakota Department of Health to be chosen.
“The other challenge of course for the nation and the world is how do you manufacture that many doses, because once you come up with vaccine that could be produced, you know, how do you create hundreds or billions of doses?” Burgum said. “This is a manufacturing challenge that the world has never undertaken before.”
North Dakota Immunization Program Manager Molly Howell said the state was selected on the strength of its immunization program, as well as its strong ties to its tribal nations.
“Our teams have been working for weeks on a plan and we’re thrilled to supplement that work with this partnership with the C DC and the Department of Defense to plan and prepare for the COVID-19 vaccination response in North Dakota,” she said.
Meetings for the effort will kick off this week in Bismarck. Other entities involved include Florida, California, Minnesota, and Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, North Dakota has begun a new public awareness campaign to encourage people to use a mask, and to fight misinformation that is circulating widely online.
“My mask protects you and your mask protects me,” Gov. Doug Burgum said. “They are a critical tool, and one of the most powerful ways we have of slowing the spread.”
Dr. Andrew Stahl, North Dakota’s interim state health officer, also talked about why masks are effective, and how to properly use them.
One of the main pathways for COVID-19 transmission, Stahl said, is through respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. While the viral particles alone are very very small, they tend to ride on these microdroplets, a large percentage of which are effectively blocked by wearing a mask.
Stahl mentioned the case of two Missouri hairdressers who were symptomatically infected but kept cutting hair. They and their 139 clients all wore masks, and no one caught coronavirus.
“Masks are effective, and they are also cheap and they make sense,” Stahl said.
He added that masks have been in use for decades by surgeons to prevent spread of pathogens in clinical settings.
“It seems absurd to have the option to do otherwise,” Stahl said. “And it is no different in the community right now.”
To wear a mask effectively, Stahl said, one should wash their hands prior to putting the mask on, and make sure it covers the mouth and nose. It should rest snugly against the sides of the face.
Masks with valves are not recommended for the purpose of reducing the spread of respiratory droplets that may carry coronavirus.
To remove the mask, use the ear loops and then fold the inside corners together. At that point, the mask should then be washed or placed in a bag.
Stahl said one way to encourage children to wear a mask is to let them pick it out, and to also wear one yourself, to model correct use of the mask.
“They can be good play toys as kids learn about the new normal that masks may. be required to help us combat this virus,” he said. “The steps we will take with masks will have a huge impact. And it is cheap and effective.”
North Dakota this week reported 934 new cases of coronavirus in the last seven days and 844 recoveries, bringing its active case count to 1,166 out of 37,976 tests. That’s a 2.5 percent positivity rate with serial tests included. Without, the rate is more like 5 percent.
There are 48 individuals currently hospitalized, and eight more people died during the last week, bringing the state’s death toll to 113.
Williams County had 40 new coronavirus cases during the past week, and has 50 active cases, which is the eighth most in the state. Its rate per 10,000 residents is 14.1, which is the 18th highest of the state’s 53 counties.
On other matters North Dakota announced:
• It will begin to accept Economic Resiliency Grant Program applications at 10 a.m. Aug. 12. The grant’s purpose is to assist businesses in boosting consumer confidence during the pandemic by making business improvements to reduce the spread of infections. Grants are up to $50,000 per business, or up to $100,000 for businesses with more than one location. Visit belegendary.link/ERG for details.
• It will change drivers license renewal deadlines as the North Dakota Department of Transportation works through a backlog of 22,911 driver license renewals and 48,000 motor vehicle registrations due to the COVID-19 emergency. Law enforcement agencies and private sector businesses should continue to recognize any North Dakota license that expired after March 1, 2020 as valid until Sept. 30, 2020. Licenses that expired in June, meanwhile, must be renewed by Oct. 31, and licenses expiring in July, August, September, or October must renew by Nov. 30. Licenses expiring in November and December have until Dec. 31 to renew. Vehicle registration renewals are still due by Aug. 31. To schedule an appointment to renew your license or registration, visit wdot.nd.gov or call 1-855-633-6835.
• It will provide to parents of school-age children in North Dakota free access to Exact Path, an award-winning program of Edmentum that provides precise and actionable academic pathways for students based on their current skill level. The program creates a road map to help students ensure they are studying at a skill-appropriate level, as well as reaching grade-level proficiency. It is a voluntary tool which the state is paying for using its CARES Act funding. Learn more at https://bit.ly/30LXsfz.