16 counties move into the high risk level, but that doesn’t mean automatic changes

COVID-19 Risk Levels by county
COVID-19 Risk Levels by county(KFYR)
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 12:02 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., has characterized the rise in COVID-19 cases in North Dakota as having a “dangerous trendline,” prompting him Wednesday to move several counties into the “high risk” level.

From state to local leaders, the spike in many counties' risk level to orange doesn’t mean mandates, just stronger recommendations.

And, with the state taking a local control approach and local leaders looking toward the state for guidance, it’s creating confusion when it comes to leadership.

Mask wearing and other COVID-19 safety protocols are still being left to individual responsibility, even as risk levels increase across the state.

“You can’t walk into someone’s house and wrestle a mask on them. It isn’t going to happen. People will put on a mask by themselves and take it off by themselves. I’m amazed that we’re still having this debate,” said Burgum.

Burgum continued saying mandates are “inconclusive” citing that of the 15 states with the highest positivity rate, eight of them have statewide or partial mask mandates in place, while seven don’t. But many local leaders said mandates can’t be enforced by them.

“What good would it do? When you look at us in North Dakota we travel. It’s nothing for somebody from Williston to drive to Bismarck,” said Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken.

Some local leaders, like Mayor Howard Klug in Williston, who begged an unmasked crowd at a city commission meeting to start complying, said strong recommendations won’t be enough to sway public opinion on masks.

“Enforcement 100% is not possible. But the strong recommendation is not working,” said Klug.

Although the risk level changes do come with stronger recommendations from the governor’s office, they’re still simply recommendations.

There’s currently no legal issues people will face if they break away from the strong suggestions regarding masks, gathering sizes or business operations.

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