Governor Doug Burgum Thursday afternoon unveiled a revised Smart Restart model which ranks individual counties on COVID-19 risk levels for the first time.

The previous approach had been to rank the state as a whole on COVID-19 risk levels.

Eight counties are ranked at the “Moderate” risk, or yellow, level: Burleigh, Morton, Stark, McLean, Williams, Benson, Grand Forks and Barnes.

These counties currently account for 64 percent of North Dakota’s 2,437 active cases, Burgum noted.

Thirteen counties are ranked at a “New Normal,” or blue, level, the lowest risk level.

The remaining counties are all ranked at a “Low,” or green, level.

The new risk levels go into effect Friday, September 4, at 5:00 p.m.

Accompanying the new individual county risk levels are a collection of guidelines and standards for businesses and organizations targeted to each level of COVID-19 risk.

For example, restaurants in counties at the “New Normal” blue level can operate at normal occupancy and activity, while restaurants in counties at the “Moderate” yellow level are limited to 50 percent of normal operating capacity and should cancel gatherings of any kind if social distancing cannot be maintained.

Similarly, movies theaters in counties at the “New Normal” levels can have normal occupancy and activities, while movie theaters in “Moderate” risk levels should limit capacity to 20 percent of normal capacity in each auditorium.

The complete guidelines for all businesses are posted at the website here.

The map showing each county’s risk level, along with the Smart Restart guidelines and protocols hare posted here.

Burgum said the goal of moving counties to the “Moderate” risk is to decrease opportunities to spread COVID-19 and to raise awareness and communicate to North Dakotans that an elevated risk level exists and there are simple steps they can take to slow the spread, namely avoiding large gatherings, social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands.

“These are the things that need to happen if we want to keep schools open, if we want to keep businesses open and back to operating at 100%, and most importantly, if we want to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Burgum said.