Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday released new quarantine guidance aimed at getting more people to wear masks, and pledged to provide more detailed daily information on hospital capacity in the state.
Those who are close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be urged to quarantine for 14 days if both people involved were wearing masks, Burgum said during a public coronavirus briefing. Those close contacts will be asked only to self-monitor for symptoms. The change applies to most settings, including schools and day cares. It does not apply to health care.
Burgum has resisted a mask mandate, while encouraging the wearing of masks. Some local governments in the Bismarck-Mandan region also have declined to mandate masks or to consider doing so, even at the recommendation of the Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force.
Burgum and State Division of Disease Control Director Kirby Kruger on Thursday said the new state quarantine guideline offers an incentive.
"The steps that we have taken here are embracing what we understand about masks and the science behind masks and that wearing a mask has direct impacts on the spread of COVID-19," Kruger said.
State health officials on Thursday reported nine more coronavirus-related deaths in North Dakota and a new daily high for COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The number of North Dakota residents tested for coronavirus at least once is at 242,900 and total tests number 642,453.
The federal government is sending 14,000 "rapid result" tests to North Dakota, and the state expects to have 220,000 of them by the end of the year, according to Burgum. The tests are being distributed to states on a per-capita basis, he said. North Dakota would likely use the tests in nursing home and school settings, he said.
Burleigh and Morton counties are in the yellow "moderate" risk level, which is in the middle of the state's five-level color-coded system. The risk level determines what sort of coronavirus-related protocols are in place under the ND Smart Restart Plan for everything from businesses to family gatherings. The protocols are not enforced.
Fourteen other North Dakota counties are at yellow, 25 are in the green or "low" risk level and 12 are in the blue "new normal" level. The state reviews the county risk levels on a weekly basis. They did not change this week, according to Burgum.
For more detailed information on county risk levels and on coronavirus in North Dakota, go to health.nd.gov/coronavirus.
Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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