Burgum: Pandemic response shifts toward endemic status as COVID-19 trends improve

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As COVID-19 trends continue to improve and the second anniversary of the first recorded case in North Dakota approaches, Gov. Doug Burgum today announced that the State of North Dakota is preparing for a shift toward an endemic status in the future.

“In North Dakota, we have used a common-sense, data-driven approach to protecting the vulnerable, preserving individual freedoms and saving lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic. We’ve provided information in innovative ways so that each individual has access to resources and education to make informed decisions about their health,” Burgum said.  “As we prepare to shift into a new phase and learn to live with this virus, we have resources and tools that were not available two years ago. Research, vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, antivirals and at-home test kits have changed what we know about the virus and how we respond in our communities.”

After a peak of cases in late January due to the omicron variant, North Dakota has seen a steady and significant decrease in both active cases and hospitalizations. Compared with January, the number of new COVID-19 cases in February declined by 73%, hospital admissions decreased by 50% and deaths decreased by 11%.

“With the continued decrease in active cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 in North Dakota, we believe it is time to plan the transition toward an endemic phase with this virus,” said State Health Officer, Dr. Nizar Wehbi. “Endemic COVID-19 does not mean that the virus is gone. The virus is still in our communities, but we now have more tools and therapeutics to fight the virus and protect our vulnerable population and maintain hospital capacity.”

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in 2020, and North Dakota confirmed its first case on March 11, 2020. A pandemic occurs when there is an increase in cases of a disease across the globe. An endemic occurs when the disease is present but there are no large shifts in case counts and the patterns of infection become more stable.

As the state shifts toward endemic status, North Dakota National Guard support for COVID-19 operations in the state will end March 17, marking 736 consecutive days of response by the Guard. This will conclude the largest and longest state mobilization in the history of the North Dakota National Guard, with Soldiers and Airmen contributing over 133,000 personnel days to the pandemic response and supporting approximately 467,000 tests and over 100,000 vaccines.

“I’m extremely proud of the leadership, cooperation and professionalism of the men and women of the North Dakota National Guard and the Department of Emergency Services during this two-year effort combatting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, North Dakota adjutant general. “Their commitment to the whole-of-government approach in supporting the citizens of our state during this emergency is nothing less than remarkable.”

“As we shift operations toward an endemic status, we thank the National Guard and the Department of Emergency Services for the incredible support they provided throughout the pandemic,” Burgum said. “From testing and vaccinations to providing additional capacity at the state lab, the work of the National Guard enhanced our response across the state, and we are grateful for their assistance, service and lifesaving work.”

Over the last month, North Dakota has made at-home COVID-19 tests available for pick up at locations across the state. The availability of at-home tests empowers North Dakotans to make informed decisions about their health without having to go to a public testing site or clinic.

Wehbi said the state is maintaining its response capacity and capability to be prepared in case of another surge or new variant.

“Just to remind all our citizens: If you are sick, stay home. People might consider adding a few at-home COVID-19 tests to the medicine cabinet, having them on hand to test if they have been exposed or have symptoms. Vaccination remains the first line of protective defense against the virus, and being up-to-date on immunizations is important,” Wehbi said.

For more information about COVID-19 in North Dakota, including information about vaccination and at-home testing, and resources for businesses, visit www.health.nd.gov.

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