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Good work but don’t let guard down

Dr. Joshua Wynne, vice president for Health Affairs, Dean of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences and North Dakota Chief Health Strategist

Dr. Paul Carson, director of the North Dakota State University Center for Research Immunization and Education and consultant on the North Dakota Department of Health’s pandemic response

Dirk Wilke, North Dakota interim State Health Officer

Something remarkable has occurred in North Dakota over the past two months – we’ve gone from being the state with the worst COVID-19 numbers in the country (when adjusted for population) to one of the few states with plunging numbers of new and active cases. The reason for this dramatic turnaround is clear – it is because our fellow citizens in the state decided to exercise personal responsibility and do those simple things that we know are effective in limiting the spread of the virus like wearing masks as appropriate, washing one’s hands, keeping our distance, and limiting the size of gatherings. After all, the virus is spread mainly by people touching each other or sharing air in enclosed spaces. It really is as simple as that, and everything that we do to limit physical contact and the sharing of air reduces the transmission of the bug. So, congratulations to all of us for facilitating this change. This truly is what personal responsibility is all about – taking care of oneself and one’s neighbors.

But before we congratulate each other too much, let’s remember that we are not out of the woods yet. We cannot afford to let down our guard, especially with the holiday season upon us. All of us will be tempted to gather together with family and friends, but we really need to continue to limit the size of gatherings and keep doing the three Ws (wear a mask; wash your hands; watch your distance). If we let our guard down, we quickly will be headed in the wrong direction again.

So, please, fellow North Dakotans – let’s continue to show the rest of the country that we’ve got the fortitude and grit to continue to do the right things, even if they are difficult. Because if we do, the New Year truly will be happy – especially with the expanding availability of vaccines. And please get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn. Community-wide vaccination is our only real path out of the pandemic and back to a more normal situation. Without it, we can expect the virus to continue marching through our state until nearly all of us have become infected – with untold hospitalizations and deaths. While the manufacture and distribution of the new vaccines has indeed been done at Warp Speed, testing of the safety and efficacy of them has not. The time-honored protocols of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have been followed rigorously for this vaccine, and when our names are called, the three of us will enthusiastically receive our shots. We encourage you to do the same.

Let’s all help each other to ensure that North Dakota continues to lead the nation in our response to the pandemic. Thanks also to Governor Burgum for his leadership in leading the fight against this scourge. But in the final analysis, it isn’t government that ultimately determines the outcome of things like the pandemic – it is the actions of you and us. We thank and salute you.

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