Oh, we wish this weren't happening right now.
Just as our schools are opening, COVID-19 case numbers have been increasing in Burleigh, Morton and Stark counties. Superintendents, school boards, and principals have had to make very difficult decisions with no roadmap of where this pandemic is headed.
The Burleigh County Health unit has worked with local schools to promote safe openings. We've all heard the argument against the use of face masks. It goes something like this "I'm not worried about this virus. If I do get it I'll almost certainly recover." Actually, that is true, but misses the point.
The vast majority of infected persons under 20 do recover. The problem is that 5% or so of teachers and students have underlying health conditions (e.g. obesity, diabetes) which place them at risk magnitudes higher than their more fortunate peers. It is for these people we wear masks. It is a humane, considerate thing to do.
That said, I'd like to share some good news. Today, Burleigh County Health visited St. Mary's Central High School. Our mission was to verify that their safe return policy was actually being practiced. We were well pleased to see masks were in place, social distancing encouraged whenever possible, and that accommodations had been made for music classes and dining. We tip our hats to what Gerald Vetter and his team has done and are especially impressed in how the student body cares enough about each other to wear masks.
We trust that the good behavior we saw today will continue and that it will be matched by other schools we visit.
Dr. Guy Tangedahl, Bismarck-Burleigh health officer
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