AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to increase across North Dakota, as well as McKenzie County, the question that everyone needs to ask themselves, is are we doing enough to stop the spread of the virus.
Whether or not you believe that the coronavirus is a serious issue, the state of North Dakota is taking the increase seriously as last week Gov. Doug Burgum raised the risk level for a dozen counties, including McKenzie County.
On Sept. 23, the governor moved McKenzie County, Cass, Emmons, Richland, Sargent, Stutsman and Ward counties from green to yellow, or “low risk” to “moderate risk” due to the increasing number of active COVID-19 cases.
As of Monday, Sept. 28, McKenzie had 82 positive cases, while North Dakota had 3,669 positive cases, the highest numbers to date.
So what does the higher level of risk mean to those of us living in McKenzie County?
Obviously, the first impact of the county moving from a low to moderate risk level was felt by our school systems with administrators and school boards reacting quickly to the announcement.
Fortunately for students and parents, our county’s school systems don’t feel any need to make significant changes to their school week or how they are going to be teaching in-person classes at this level. But without exception, school administrators are concerned what will happen if they are forced to move into the different phases of their Yellow Risk Plans if the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to increase.
While school administrators in Alexander and Watford City haven’t seen a significant number of positive cases in their schools, they are seeing a big impact on their daily enrollment numbers as more and more students, mostly those who are students involved in extracurricular activities, are being quarantined after being identified as having been in close contact with a person who has tested positive.
Slowing the spread of the virus is now something that everyone in the state and McKenzie County needs to take more seriously if we are to prevent further changes in how our schools operate or how businesses in our communities operate. No one wants to see masking become a requirement in our schools. And no one wants to see non-essential businesses being forced to change the way they interact and serve their customers.
But the reality is that unless North Dakotans do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we could see the state move back to the restrictions that were in place last spring when the pandemic began. And no one wants to see that happen again.
The easiest way to knock our numbers down is by being smart and by being careful when you are with other people. That is the message that Gov. Burgum has been stressing from the beginning.
And it is a message that needs to be repeated over and over again. We all need to do more by practicing social distancing, staying away from others if we are sick, washing our hands more frequently, and by wearing a mask when you feel the situation warrants.