This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
Health officials made rapid antigen COVID-19 tests easily accessible to the public around the holidays, an important step in reducing the spread of the coronavirus as more people gathered for celebrations. Since the North Dakota Department of Health began hosting the events in Bismarck on Dec. 19, more than 1,800 people have been tested, a spokeswoman said last week. The tests are less invasive than a typical PCR test, and results are available in minutes rather than days. Rapid testing events will continue to be held at Gateway Mall, and the Bismarck Municipal Airport also has offered tests to passengers. Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health will use rapid testing at its drive-thru event this week, and Custer Health in Mandan offers the rapid tests for free by appointment. Anyone who may have been around more people during the holidays should take advantage of these opportunities.
North Dakota ended 2020 with about 1,300 coronavirus-related deaths. The pandemic death toll now stands at 1,310, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. A total of 1,070 of those deaths were due to COVID-19, according to official death records. Another 212 people had COVID-19 when they died but that was not listed as the primary cause of death. Twenty-eight death records were still pending. Burleigh County has reported 177 deaths and Morton County has reported 79.
Huff Hills south of Mandan is now open, providing people with an activity that Mountain Operations Manager Andy Beck calls “naturally socially distant.” The ski area made changes to keep people safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, including adding a yurt to allow for social distancing while people dine. Huff Hills opened about a month later than usual due to warm weather.
Law enforcement agencies gave 570 citations for failing to wear a seat belt during a statewide Click It or Ticket campaign held Nov. 16-29. The enforcement is part of the state’s Vision Zero campaign, which strives for zero motor vehicle fatalities or serious injuries on North Dakota roads. The North Dakota Department of Transportation says an unbelted vehicle occupant died every 11 days in North Dakota in 2019.