At his weekly coronavirus briefing, Governor Doug Burgum outlined changes to North Dakota's COVID-19 risk level.
Right now, the entire state is in the "green," or "low" risk level. As students have returned to classes in both K-12 schools and colleges, North Dakota's COVID numbers have sharply increased. But Burgum says treating each county equally in regard to risk level doesn't make sense.
"Eight of our 53 counties have still had ten or fewer cases in the county since the pandemic began. We've had twelve additional counties that have had twenty or fewer cases in total - not even talking active, but since the pandemic began. And currently we have four counties that have no active positives, and almost 30 counties with ten or fewer cases."
Burgum says as of tomorrow at 5pm, thirteen North Dakota counties will be moved to the "new normal," or "blue" risk level. The counties are Billings, Cavalier, Divide, Foster, Griggs, LaMoure, McIntosh, Mercer, Nelson, Renville, Traill, Walsh and Wells. Burgum says because these counties are moving to a lower risk level it does not mean the risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19 is gone.
Burgum says eight other counties will be moving to the "yellow," or "moderate" risk category. These counties include Barnes, Benson, Burleigh, Grand Forks, McLean, Morton, Stark and Williams Counties.
Burgum says because of the population disparities in each county - a move like this makes more sense.
"We're doing this because we really want to raise awareness and communicate to North Dakotans that an elevated risk level does exist - and there are things that need to happen if we want to keep our schools open, our businesses open and back to operating at 100 percent, if we want to get back to watching sports live, back to concerts - there are a lot of things we have to do."
Burgum says the overall goal is to slow the spread and protect the most vulnerable, while keeping businesses open. But he says this will require a response and cooperation from everyone.