A timeline of COVID-19 in North Dakota

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 9:22 AM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The year 2020 started off with reports of a mysterious and concerning new virus emerging from China.

In the first few weeks of the year, we were watching infections begin to make their way into the United States.

Then, on March 11, 2020, a Ward County man in his 60s tested positive for what we’d soon come to know as COVID-19.

The news broke on Your News Leader that night.

By morning, Gov. Doug Burgum has a press conference planned to kick the state’s response into gear.

Quickly, health officials merged to create a task force, learned to trace COVID-19 contacts throughout the community and set up mass testing sites.

Meanwhile, Burgum began daily briefings to keep the public informed on efforts to contain the virus that threatened to overwhelm our health care system and put our loved ones and ourselves at risk. In short, our lives changed.

“None of us enjoy change, we’re humans,” Burgum said. “We like it the way it was yesterday as opposed to desiring it to be a lot different tomorrow, for the most part, but this has been a lot of change that’s been forced upon us, it’s going to be a period of discomfort, but I know that if any state is going to come through it, it’s going to be North Dakota.”

We learned what it would mean to keep a six-foot distance from our coworkers and our loved ones.

Then, on March 13, the governor declared a state of emergency.

Days later, schools were ordered to close and later to remain in an online format. Meaning graduations, proms and important tests would not be what any of us had in mind.

“I haven’t seen my classmates for almost three months and now we came back together to see all the faces for the last time and it’s crazy. I don’t know if it’s hit me yet,” said Grant Anderson, a Bismarck High School graduate of 2020, as his class held an outdoor, socially distanced ceremony in May.

Within a week, we were seeing food and supply shortages at grocery stores, courts closed and businesses impacted.

Communities did what they could to support those businesses, especially restaurants as they expanded curbside and delivery options. Neighbors did what they could to check in on each other, as paper hearts appeared in windows in every community across the state.

On March 27, the first North Dakotan with COVID-19 died. Over the course of the following year, more than 1,450 of our loved ones died with the disease.

Yet, North Dakotans tried resiliently to prove this virus could not break our spirit.

“There is no limit to the amount of kindness we can show to other people,” Burgum reminded viewers at yet another press briefing. “There is no limit to the amount of gratitude we can give to other people, there is no limit to the amount of patience we can provide to other people and there certainly is no limit on the amount of love we can share for people that are actually suffering.”

By August, schools were making plans to return students to instruction as active cases began to spike. Families were weighing heavy decisions on their schedules, health and jobs while school districts were navigating uncharted waters.

Then, the holiday season would bring new concerns about the risks of gathering with loved ones.

As national health experts warned of the worst of the virus to come, North Dakota was seeing what may have been the most devastating impacts yet. November would go down as the state’s deadliest month.

By November 13, the state recorded its highest count of active cases the same day governor Doug Burgum issued a statewide mask mandate.

Within weeks, active cases began a steep decline, restrictions began to lift, and vaccines made their way into North Dakota communities.

One year later, on March 11, 2021, active cases and hospitalizations due coronavirus are near levels seen in July of 2020.

New hope for a return to normal life grows as North Dakota expands vaccination clinics to more groups within our communities.

The latest numbers show 21.2% of the population has had at least one dose of the vaccine.

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