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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke extended mitigation measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and preserving hospital capacity as the state continues to see a significant number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths even as active cases decline.
“While active cases and our test positivity rate continue to decline thanks to the individual efforts of North Dakotans across our state, hospitalizations and deaths remain far too high,” Burgum said, noting 284 North Dakotans remain hospitalized due to COVID-19, down from a record of 341 on Nov. 22 but still well above levels seen earlier this fall. “If we continue to see active cases go down, we can be hopeful that we will see hospitalizations decline in the weeks ahead. Working together, we can continue to protect the vulnerable, preserve hospital capacity, keep students in the classroom and keep our economy open.”
A State Health Officer order requiring face coverings to be worn in indoor businesses and indoor public settings as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible, has been extended to 12:01 a.m. Jan. 18. The amended order still includes exceptions for children under age 5, individuals with a medical or mental health condition or disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask, and religious services. The order took effect Nov. 14 and was originally set to expire Monday, Dec. 14.
“With the numbers in North Dakota continuing to improve, we need to continue doing what we know works,” said Interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke. “Wearing a face covering is the most simple and effective way to prevent the spread.”
The extension to Jan. 18 will allow for a 14-day incubation period to pass after Christmas and New Year’s to provide a clearer picture of case trends, Burgum noted.
Burgum has extended until 8 a.m. Jan. 8 an executive order that limits capacity for bars, restaurants and event venues to reduce COVID-19 transmission. The order has been in place since Nov. 16 and was originally set to expire Dec. 13.
Under the amended order, all bars, restaurants and food service establishments remain limited to 50 percent of their licensed seated capacity, not to exceed 150 patrons, and are closed to in-person service between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Take-out, curbside and delivery will still be allowed during those hours, and North Dakotans are encouraged to take advantage and support local businesses.
All banquet, ballroom and event venues remain limited to 25 percent of their maximum occupancy, not to exceed the ND Smart Restart capacity limits that were established with input from venues and local public health officials based on the size of the venue. Physical distancing and masks are still required for the safety of personnel and patrons.
Burgum said the extension of the executive order is shorter than the mask mandate extension in recognition of the impact that business restrictions have on the livelihoods of those affected.
A four-week pause on high school winter sports competitions and other extracurricular K-12 school activities, as well as association, community and club sports, will be allowed to expire at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13 as stated in the original order. The North Dakota High School Activities Association has updated its spectator guidance to align with the statewide limits on large events included in the ND Smart Restart tiers for events and gatherings, which can be found at www.ndresponse.gov.
The 4,554 active cases reported today by the North Dakota Department of Health is down 56 percent from the peak of 10,373 active cases on Nov. 13. The state’s 7-day positivity rate also has declined to 8.4 percent, but Burgum noted the state would like to see it below 5 percent.
For more information on North Dakota’s COVID-19 response, visit www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus or www.ndresponse.gov.