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Tribune editorial: Quarantine change won’t win over public

Tribune editorial: Quarantine change won’t win over public

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Gov. Doug Burgum’s new quarantine guidance won’t achieve its goal of encouraging more people to wear masks to combat COVID-19.

Under the new guidance, anyone in close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will no longer be urged to quarantine for 14 days if both people involved were wearing masks. Those close contacts will now be asked to self-monitor for symptoms. The change applies to most settings except health care.

The Tribune editorial board doesn’t see the change as a workable incentive for people to wear masks. Most people who don’t wear masks are aware of the risks of COVID-19. There are some who may even believe the pandemic is overblown, while others doubt the effectiveness of masks, believe they won’t get COVID-19 or feel masks infringe on their freedom.

If they don’t feel the need for masks, it’s unlikely they are worried about quarantining. Unfortunately, there are some that would ignore the need to quarantine. The problem with voluntary compliance is too many won’t comply, putting others at risk.

With North Dakota breaking records for hospitalizations, infections and deaths, there can be no doubt about the severity of the situation. Burleigh and Morton counties have become hot spots for the coronavirus.

No one’s safe from it. From the president to a North Dakota Supreme Court justice to a legislative candidate, COVID-19 doesn’t play favorites. Yet, many people go about their daily lives as if nothing has changed.

It doesn’t help that the president and those around him are sending mixed signals. They often don’t wear masks and don’t observe social distancing. There are now numerous cases of COVID-19 in the White House.

Voluntary compliance sounds good, but it’s not practical. It just takes a few people who don’t follow the safety protocols to spread the disease. There’s also a plan to launch a marketing and education campaign. Spending a lot of money on an ad campaign isn’t a wise strategy when most people have made up their minds about the pandemic.

While the Tribune doesn’t agree with the proposed approach to COVID-19 by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, we feel he’s right when he said spending $1.8 million on a marketing campaign is “... not an optimal use of taxpayer money.”

It’s doubtful an ad campaign will get much bang for the buck. As long as the state’s efforts remain voluntary the pandemic will be a problem. We can’t expect to overcome the pandemic as long as the public is divided on how to deal with it.

Mandates aren’t popular, but voluntary compliance also has failed the popularity test. The quarantine guidance has no teeth.

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