Gov. Doug Burgum announced the formation of a task force to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Burleigh and Morton counties including the Bismarck-Mandan metro area, which have seen sharp increases in COVID-19 cases recently.
Combined, the two counties accounted for 62 of the 157 new COVID-19 cases reported today by the North Dakota Department of Health. The two counties’ have a 14-day rolling average positive test rate of 4.12%, compared with 2.77% statewide. With 371 cases, the Burleigh-Morton area accounts for more than one-third of North Dakota’s 1,084 active cases.
Similar to the Red River Valley COVID-19 Task Force established in early May, the goal of the Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force is to work to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, dedicating state and county resources to assist in three primary areas: prevention measures and testing, contact tracing and support for isolation and quarantine.
“We’ve got a great game plan to follow, one that worked in our collaboration between Cass and Clay counties,” Burgum said. “With this combination of testing strategies, we also need education around prevention. We’re aiming to drive Burleigh-Morton’s positive rate below the statewide rate, and we want to do that as quickly as possible.”
The Task Force will include city and county officials, local public health units, representatives of the medical, education and business sectors, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) and other stakeholders.
Burgum also provided an update on the state’s testing strategy, noting there are now 19 static testing sites established in cities across North Dakota, with plans to expand sites to all 28 local public health districts to provide even easier access for citizens to obtain testing. The state also plans to increase testing capacity by 60%, from 5,000 tests per day to a projected 8,000 tests per day.
Testing events are scheduled across the state this week and next. Testing times and dates are available at www.health.nd.gov/testnd and will be updated regularly.
Burgum noted the Red River Valley COVID-19 Task Force has made significant progress in Cass County, reducing the 14-day rolling average positive rate from 9.6% in May to 2.73% today, which is lower than the state’s 14-day average of 2.77%.
The governor also signed two amended executive orders today:
- Executive Order 2020-12.2 extends eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits to include direct care providers employed by licensed North Dakota providers, including the Life Skills and Transition Center, who contract COVID-19 as a result of their work.
- Executive Order 2020-20.1 amends a previous order to include nursing home administrators in the suspension of in-person continuing education requirements for licensing renewal. The original order temporarily suspended in-person continuing education requirements for licensing renewal for health care professionals.
The NDDoH has confirmed 6,141 positive cases of COVID-19 out of 297,512 tests since the state’s first case was confirmed in March. Thirty-five people are currently hospitalized, and 100 individuals with COVID-19 have passed away. Burgum extended his deepest sympathies to the families, friends and communities of those who passed away and to all those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
The governor strongly encouraged all North Dakotans to practice social distancing, wear masks where appropriate and wash their hands to help slow the spread of COVID-19.