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The mask mandate issued by the governor of North Dakota has been extended through mid-January.

Gov. Doug Burgum made the announcement Dec. 9 during a press conference in Bismarck.

According to the governor, the rate of the pandemic was forcing the mandate to be extended as a way to regain control of the Coronavirus in the state.

Originally, he started the mandate in mid-November using an executive order when the state was ranked first in the nation for new cases per capita. According to researchers from John Hopkins University, the state has dropped from first to tenth in the country in recent weeks.

As part of the original executive order, restaurants and bars were limited to 50 percent capacity and had to be closed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

The governor announced at the press conference that interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke was extending the statewide mask mandate until Jan. 18. According to Wilke, the decision was made as the state continued to improve after the mask mandate started.

Since the mask mandate was put into effect by the governor’s executive order, the 14-day rolling daily positive average has dropped from a highest in the nation 15.9 percent rate to 7.93 percent as of Saturday (Dec. 12). The rate has dropped by half in that time. That is still short of what rate the governor had stated as acceptable earlier in the summer (about 5 percent).

The governor recently changed the status for school winter sports, giving permission for the delayed winter season to start Dec. 14 after allowing the teams to go back to practice about a week after the season was postponed by the original executive order.

According to the statistics released by the state Saturday, there were 3,784 active positive cases of COVID-19 in the state.

While 82,935 people are listed as recovered since the pandemic began, the state fatalities have climbed to 1,152 people.

Since the pandemic started through Saturday, the state has processed 1,230,219 tests to 363,641 individuals with 87,871 being found to be positive. People working in healthcare jobs have been going through repeated tests. Approximately 48 percent of the state population has been tested with a cumulative positivity rate of 23.6 percent since the pandemic hit the state.

With the recent drop, the daily positivity rate fell to 4.82 percent with 287 positives (PCR and Antigen tests) statewide through Sunday.

In Bowman, there will be free COVID-19 testing done Dec. 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bowman County Fairgrounds.

In Bowman County, 4,569 tests have been processed with 194 found to be PCR positive this year. In Slope County, among the 321 tests, 20 were found to be positive.

So far this year, just a few counties in North Dakota have yet to log a death tied to COVID-19. That included Adams, Billings, Golden Valley and Slope counties – until Monday. Then Adams County logged its first fatality, leaving just Billings, Golden Valley and Slope counties as the only ones with no fatalities in the state.

According to the state, Bowman County has had four deaths, while Stark County has 40. The highest number of county fatalities has been in Ward (158), Burleigh (150) and Cass (148).

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