As Americans gather this weekend to celebrate our freedom and independence, some states are re-imposing restrictions on their residents and businesses amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
This needn’t be our fate in North Dakota.
Thanks to the individual responsibility exercised by residents and business owners, the North Dakota economy largely remained open even as most other states shut down. We’ve been able to save both lives and livelihoods because of the actions and responsibilities shouldered by every North Dakotan.
Now our positive test rate is the sixth-lowest in the nation while our per capita testing is among the best in the nation.
The North Dakota Smart Restart plan, along with billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funding, have enabled us to successfully accelerate our economic recovery. Nursing home visitation is resuming in phases, reuniting residents and their loved ones faster than most, if not all, other states.
We’ve worked hard with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that we have abundant health care capacity and personal protective equipment. We’ve vastly expanded testing capacity and created a robust contact tracing system to quickly identify and isolate COVID-19 cases to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But the battle against COVID-19 has not yet been won, and complacency could reverse our positive trends and slow our restart.
A surge in newly confirmed cases and positive rates in states such as California, Florida, Texas and Arizona is cause for concern. In Texas, the positive rate increased from 4% to 14% in just one month, bars have closed and restaurant capacity has been reduced from 75% to 50%.
And it differs from the initial outbreak. A greater percentage of this new national wave of cases are 20- to 40-year-olds, with an increasing number of them requiring hospitalization because of underlying conditions such as obesity, hypertension, asthma and diabetes, federal officials said.
Already in North Dakota, those ages 20 to 49 comprise 59% of our confirmed cases – and growing – while 63% of deaths with COVID-19 are ages 80 and over.
This uneven risk of mortality from COVID-19 underscores why it’s so important to practice both individual responsibility and responsibility to protect those around us – our neighbors, parents, grandparents, friends, family and communities.
We’re all in this together, and the good news is we can all take immediate action to prevent further breakouts in North Dakota. But we must act now – especially during this Fourth of July weekend, one of the busiest weekends of the year for travel, family get-togethers and large gatherings.
Be part of the prevention rather than part of an outbreak. To protect yourself and others:
Avoid close contact – at least 6 feet apart – with people who are sick and those outside your home, as people without symptoms can spread the virus.
Wear a mask or cloth face covering if you’re unable to maintain proper social distancing or if you’re going out in public, for example to the grocery store.
Follow proper hygiene habits, including frequent handwashing.
These public health measures are not an obstacle to our freedom, but rather a vehicle toward economic recovery, reducing the risk of transmission so the residents of North Dakota stay healthy and our businesses and institutions can continue to remain open, build consumer confidence and thrive. Let’s keep moving forward together.
Happy Independence Day, and thank you for being North Dakota Smart!