Bergam states that ‘yellow’ COVID-19 is not rising to risk level in defiance of Cass County state norms

Counties involving Fargo and West Fargo have seen a dramatic increase in infections recently, with 237 new cases reported in the past three days. Cass’s active case count rose sharply to 480 on Monday, making it the second-largest amount of any county in the state.

With Uptick, currently “low-risk” counties now meet the yellow designation criteria in active cases and the percentage of tests that come out positive. The county remains at a lower designation for the third principle criterion, the amount of tests conducted on residents.

North Dakota on Friday released its new criteria for COVID-19 risk levels. September 4. The criteria now apply at a county level rather than the state level, Gov. Doug Bergam said. Photo from North Dakota Health Department

Bergam said at a press conference on Monday 14 September that Cass would not join the other eight North Dakota counties at the yellow level due to specific reference to the outbreak of the Fargo region.

WDAY logo
Newsletter signup for email alerts

The Republican governor said many of the cases in the state’s largest metro area have come from young people, including students at North Dakota State University, who are at lower risk of serious illness from COVID-19. He said that other areas of high infection, like the Bismarck and Dickinson metros, are reporting high proportions of cases in more than 70 residents.

“We’re trying to look at the data that underlies the top-level numbers,” Bergam said. “Specifically, where the case (s) spreads by age, is something we’re looking at because it’s going to determine whether we’re under pressure to be hospitalized.”

However, Bergam said the county could become a candidate to raise the level of risk if cases continue to rise next week.

The governor did not make any adjustments to the risk levels of any of the counties on Monday, but noted that his office would be watching the Stark and Williams counties carefully next week. Stark County, which includes Dickinson, exceeds the criteria for a moderate-risk county in active cases and positivity rates.

The North Dakota Gov. Doug Bergam announced on Thursday, September 3, that the official COVID-19 risk level would be adjusted by the county.  Are in blue counties "New normal," There are green counties "Less" Risk and yellow counties are "Moderate" Risk of disease.  Screenshot via North Dakota Department of Health

The North Dakota Gov. Doug Bergam announced on Thursday, September 3, that the official COVID-19 risk level would be adjusted by the county. Blue counties are in the “new normal”, green counties are at “low” risk, and yellow counties are at “moderate” risk for the disease. Screenshot via North Dakota Department of Health

Bergam again issued a mask mandate for the state on Monday despite pleading with top doctors.

The governor has repeatedly said that the state relies on “personal responsibility” rather than governmental requirement to encourage wearing of masks, noting that residents should not have the right to wear masks in public.

However, in a separate issue of public health versus personal freedom, Bergam went the other way. The governor pledged his support behind an effort to toughen seatbelt-clad enforcement in cars in 2018. Opponents of a bill to prevent seatbelt enforcement that failed during last year’s legislative session argued that residents are at liberty not to wear seatbelt.

Bergam said he sees how one might logically find his position inconsistent on two issues, but added that he believes that issuing this mask mandate is in fact wearing less masks by the public. Bergam said that if it had been the case with the seatbelt, it would have been on the other side of that argument.

A June study of health cases concluded that compulsory mask reduces the rate at which COVID-19 spreads through communities.

ND report records active cases

Earlier in the day, the North Dakota Department of Health reported 255 new cases of COVID-19 on another record-breaking day.

The department also confirmed the deaths of a Burley County woman in the 90s and an Eddy County woman in the 80s. According to the department, the majority of people in North Dakota, who succumbed to the disease, had underlying health conditions for both women.

The department says 170 northern bandits have died of the disease, including 27 residents, who died in the last two weeks. Eighty-nine deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are still three deaths that remain in a “presumed positive” category, meaning that a medical professional determines that COVID-19 was the cause of death but the person was not tested for the disease while he was alive.

Now 2,758 North dacoits are known to be infected with the virus – a new epidemic. Sixty-five residents are hospitalized with the virus, 19 patients are included in intensive care.

Eight of the new cases reported on Monday came from Cass County. North Dakota State University has tested 167 students, teachers and staff over the past two weeks.

Twenty-two of the new cases came from Burley County, including Bismarck. The county has the most active cases with 513 in the state. Morton County, which sits west of Burley County and includes Mandan, reported 13 new cases and 216 active cases.

Stark County reported 34 new cases of the disease, bringing its active case to 249.

Grand Forks County reported 32 new cases on Monday, bringing the county to 273 active cases. The University of North Dakota reports 61 students, teachers and staff have been infected with the virus and 232 others associated with the university are in quarantine.

On Monday, at least one case was reported, including several small, rural counties. All but one of the state’s 53 counties have at least one active case.

Of the 3,959 residents tested as part of the latest batch, about 6.4% received positive results, but 6.8% tested for the first time.

North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average for the positivity rate as many other states do, but the Forum News Service calculated the rate to be 9.3% for tests taken on previously unoccupied residents.

As a public service, we have opened this article to everyone regardless of membership status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the Membership button in the upper right corner of the homepage.