Story at a glance
- North and South Dakota are experiencing increasing two-week testing positivity averages, signifying virus spread.
- Neither state has a formal face mask mandate.
North Dakota has posted a record number of new active COVID-19 cases for 11 days straight, hitting 5,652 active positive cases on Saturday, followed by 716 new cases on Sunday, the Bismarck Tribune reports.
The state health department reports a two-week average testing positivity rate of 11.97 percent.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the state has recorded 36,637 positive cases.
Statewide, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 infection have hit a new peak following a steady increase in late September. Some 153 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, 30 of which are in intensive care units. This leaves just 14.66 percent of staffed beds available.
Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has yet to implement a state mandate to wear masks or close businesses, but instead implemented a color-coded system to document high-risk areas. Initially, state guidelines would call for the closure of businesses and schools, but more recent guidelines focus on reducing instances of viral transmission, Burgum explained during a press conference last week.
Businesses will be restricted to a 25 percent occupancy and capped at 50 people, and the state only encourages face masks rather than requiring them.
Burgum did urge residents to take personal responsibility for others’ health by engaging in social distancing and wearing masks.
“It’s not a job for government; this is a job for everybody,” he said.
Five new fatalities have been documented in North Dakota due to COVID-19, all older Americans with underlying health conditions, lifting the state’s death toll to 404.
South Dakota is experiencing similar struggles, with its department of health reporting 8,388 active cases and 567 new cases reported on Monday, representing a continued increase in positive cases over a 14-day period.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) attributes this to more testing, despite the accompanying increases in hospitalizations and deaths.
“We have triple the amount of testing that we are doing in the state of South Dakota, which is why we’re seeing elevated positive cases,” Noem said, according to The Associated Press. “That’s normal, that’s natural, that’s expected.”
South Dakota also does not have a mandatory facial mask rule in place.