In his first public appearance since ordering mask usage and pausing winter activities in North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum explained the timing of the orders, which he resisted for months.
“It’s really tied back to hospital capacity,” Burgum said at his weekly COVID-19 press briefing.
As of Friday afternoon, North Dakota had 13 open intensive care unit beds. “We’re trying to avoid a Thanksgiving or a post-Thanksgiving crunch where we do get overwhelmed.”
Burgum stressed that a mask mandate, in and of itself, will not make the pandemic go away.
“I know that we’ve got ‘COVID fatigue’ going on in the nation and in our state, and so we’re also sensitive to try to do the least amount we can,” he said. “We’ve been very clear for months and months and months that individual responsibility was going to be key to that. And that still is the same.”
The governor was joined by a full slate of guests at Friday’s conference, including state legislative leaders, school superintendents and doctors.
Dr. Josh Ranum with West River Health Services in Hettinger praised Burgum’s mask order and compared the pandemic to an ‘out-of-control prairie fire.’
He said he believes masks have become a political litmus test — but he feels the issue goes beyond politics, including his own.
“I’m a fairly libertarian guy,” Ranum said. “I do not see this as an egregious assault on my personal liberties.”
“For the same reason that I can’t drive 90 miles an hour on the highway or shoot my gun in town, my responsibility to society involves wearing a mask and following mitigation strategies,” he said.