This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
The coronavirus pandemic prompted more people to take advantage of North Dakota state parks, with visitation and camping hitting records this past season. Annual park pass sales increased 18% over 2019. Overnight camping saw especially high increases in September and October, up 173% and 339%, respectively, over 2019. Weather also likely played a role. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park south of Mandan is among the parks that saw a boost in visitation. Now state park officials plan to do public surveys to see how they can continue the high usage in 2021.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem correctly characterized the court fight over the District 8 House seat as “a waste of taxpayer dollars and time.” The dispute stems from the election of David Andahl, who died Oct. 5 of COVID-19 but won 36% of the vote in the general election. Gov. Doug Burgum lost his attempt to appoint a member to the House after the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled he had not established a legal right to make the appointment. Justices agreed with the opinion Stenehjem issued on Oct. 13 that said District 8 Republican leaders should make the appointment. Most voters cast their ballots with the understanding that the district leaders would fill the seat. Burgum’s lawsuit was unnecessary. The legal bills had not yet been finalized when the Tribune inquired last week.
Community organizations still found a way to provide Thanksgiving dinners this year even though some traditional events were postponed or modified due to coronavirus concerns. Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe, which has traditionally been closed on Thanksgiving, made enough meals and desserts to serve 300 last Thursday. The Banquet also served a meal, with a limit on the capacity of the dining room and a to-go option. AID Inc. in Mandan was unable to serve its traditional meal but planned to distribute food baskets to those in need. Ministry on the Margins plans to hold a Thanksgiving meal when it is safe for people to gather again.
North Dakota surpassed 900 coronavirus-related deaths last week, with the total standing at 920 as of Sunday. More than 200 deaths were reported within the past two weeks, according to North Dakota Department of Health figures. The Associated Press reported that North Dakota’s death count is the eighth-highest per capita at 118 deaths per 100,000 people, according to figures compiled by The COVID Tracking Project.