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North Dakota to lift COVID-19 emergency at end of month

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Wednesday he will lift the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration at the end of the month as the state is changing its focus to increasing vaccination rates.

Burgum issued the order last March, two days after North Dakota confirmed its first case of the coronavirus. A week later he ordered people to stay out of bars, restaurants, health clubs, movie theaters and other large-scale venues.

Burgum said the decision to lift the emergency shows the progress the state has made in protecting its most vulnerable residents, preserving hospital capacity and making vaccines available to all residents. Nearly 70% of North Dakotans ages 65 years and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 64% are fully vaccinated.

North Dakota health officials on Wednesday confirmed 178 new cases of the coronavirus, nine new hospitalizations and two new deaths. More than 106,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,484 have died since the start of the pandemic.

The state currently has no enforced business or event protocols related to COVID-19, though local measures or orders may still be in place. A statewide mask requirement issued on Nov. 18 was lifted on Jan. 18.