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Ward County moves to high-risk category

Ward County, which has emerged as one of the hot spots in the state for new positive cases of COVID-19, joined other counties in the state this week that have been deemed high risk.

Under new guidelines that were issued earlier in October, businesses in counties that are deemed at high risk will be encouraged to reduce capacity to 25 percent and no more than 50 people at a time are to be allowed at large events. Businesses will be strongly encouraged to require masks for employees and patrons and food service businesses will be encouraged to move toward take-out service, delivery, and curb-side pickup.

The change in risk level will take effect Friday evening.

Ward County had 835 active cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday. There were 165 new people who had tested positive for the virus Thursday. Fifty-one people in Ward County have died of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

Statewide there were 6,771 active cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday and about 12 percent of those who were tested over the past week were positive for the coronavirus.

Gov. Doug Burgum has consistently resisted imposing a statewide mask mandate, though several cities in North Dakota have passed mask mandates, albeit without penalties for those people who refuse to wear one.

Burgum urged people and communities to take steps to slow the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks, maintaining a physical distance, and avoiding large gatherings.

He acknowledged that cases have the potential to spike in the coming months as people spend more time indoors and gather for major holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Burgum said cases of the virus are also on the increase regionally and across the country.

The state will also increase efforts to test more people and more people who have the virus but have no symptoms and place them in isolation so they are not in the community spreading the virus. The state will also increase contact testing efforts, with people at Minot State University joining in to conduct contact tracing of college students at the state’s public colleges and universities, said Burgum.

Burgum said he believes a vaccine for the virus will be available sometime during the first quarter of 2021 and could help start to protect the vulnerable elderly. Until then, there is no vaccine and the best ways to slow the spread of the virus is distancing and mask-wearing.

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