Governor Doug Burgum Thursday afternoon turned the state orange, the color used to represent the “high-risk” level for COVID-19 in North Dakota.

After reviewing the stubbornly-rising numbers of COVID-19-related positives, infection rates and deaths, coupled with growing numbers in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and shrinking hospital capacity, Burgum raised the remaining 20 yellow, or “moderate risk,” counties to high-risk.

The change take effect Tuesday, November 10, at 8:00 a.m.

The governor did not issue a statewide mask mandate, again indicating it’s better at this time to continue encouraging people to take personal responsibility and wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands, get a flu shot and limit crowds and gatherings to the immediate household.

Under the North Dakota Smart Restart protocols, higher risk levels result in shrinking occupancy rates, smaller crowd sizes and stricter safety guidelines.

For example, restaurants and bars at the “high-risk” level are limited to 25 percent of their rated room capacities while social distancing.

Also, individual family groups or party sizes should be limited to one household or fewer than 10 people.

The complete list of protocols, recommendations and limitations are available here.

The governor also announced a number of actions to help reduce stretching health care workers too thin in light of rising demands on health care services. Among them:

  • Allowing asymptomatic health care workers to continue working with COVID patients as long as they remain asymptomatic
  • Use rapid-testing kits on health care workers so results come back faster than the current 24 to 48 hours waiting period
  • Use ambulance services and EMTs to help in testing missions around the state — this will free up more nurses to support in-patient care as needed

Burgum noted North Dakota’s hospitals are starting to strain at their hospital bed capacities as they treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

He said some hospitals are suspending elective surgery in an effort to meet COVID-19 demands on their systems and resources.

“We can look at hard data,” Burgum said, “and one thing that is not debatable — our hospitals are under enormous pressure now.”

The governor said about 20 percent of hospital capacity is going toward COVID-19-related cases.

The North Dakota Department of Health Monday morning confirmed 1,160 new cases of COVID-19 in the state during testing November 8, bringing the total positives since testing began to 55,458.

The number of currently active COVID-19 cases in the state stands at 10,865 as of November 8. That’s up 302 cases from November 7.

Of the new positives, 214 were in Burleigh County and 61 were in Morton County.

Cass County had 216 new positives and Grand Forks County reported 166 new positives on November 8.

Williams County had 43, Stark County had 21 and Ward County had 93 for November 8.

Five new deaths were reported. A total of 644 people have died so far in North Dakota as a result of COVID-19.

254 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of November 8, up 14 from November 7. A total of 1,906 hospitalizations have been reported since data tracking began.

The health department reports 43,949 people are considered recovered from the 55,458 positive cases, an increase of 690 people from November 7.