This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
North Dakota is leading the states with administering the coronavirus vaccine. The state ranked No. 1 in the percentage of vaccines administered as a percentage of vaccines received, at 69%. More than 52,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered as of Thursday. North Dakota also ranks fourth in the nation with first doses administered per capita. People 75 and older began receiving the vaccine last week as the state began making it available to Phase 1B of vaccine priority groups. There is a long way to go, with the state being allocated fewer than 10,000 doses of vaccine per week. But it’s encouraging to see that North Dakota is performing well in its ability to get those vaccines administered.
It’s disappointing that Gov. Doug Burgum is allowing the state mask mandate to expire. The state has seen significant improvement since Burgum announced the mask requirement and business capacity limits in mid-November, including big drops in active COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates. North Dakota also has seen fewer deaths. It does not seem wise to stop measures that appear to be working, particularly as we learn more each day about new, more contagious, variants of the coronavirus. Local governments are free to adopt their own mandates, but a patchwork of requirements will be less effective. It’s good to see school districts including Bismarck and Mandan have already announced they will continue to require masks.
Ducks Unlimited announced last week it has purchased the site of the future Clairmont Family Conservation Park in Bismarck. The park is named after Bismarck resident Bill Clairmont, who approached the nonprofit in 2017 with the idea to create a community park. Claremont died in 2020, but his idea is continuing to move forward, with the eventual goal of transferring the 116-acre park to the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. Ducks Unlimited first plans to restore the riparian habitat, wetlands and grasslands in the area, with restoration beginning as soon as this spring.
It’s sad to see nonprofit Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota announce it will close and lay off 283 employees due to financial struggles. The agency that dates to 1919 said the financial difficulties relate to Lutheran Social Services Housing, which drained the reserves of the agency. Now leaders of the nonprofit are working to transition its programs to other agencies or nonprofits. The North Dakota Department of Human Services said it is working to help with that transition.