Burgum bumps risk levels for several North Dakota counties

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum raised the coronavirus risk level Thursday in several North Dakota counties but did not order restrictions, even as the number of hospitalizations and new infections set daily highs and as the state reels from its deadliest month since the pandemic began.

Burgum moved eight counties from moderate to high risk under the state’s five-level plan to set coronavirus management protocols for everything from businesses to family gatherings. That brings to 24 the number of North Dakota’s 53 counties now deemed high risk. The guidance for high-risk counties includes limiting businesses occupancy to 25% with a cap of 50 people and encouraging businesses to require masks. The guidelines are only recommendations and not enforced.

Burgum raised the alert level to high for Grand Forks, Mercer, LaMoure, Ramsey, Richland, Towner, Walsh and Ward counties. He also raised the risk levels for eight counties from low to moderate risk. They are Adams, Hettinger, Kidder, Pembina, Rolette, Stutsman, Traill and Wells counties.


Burgum has avoided statewide mandates such as mask-wearing and business occupancies, instead stressing a personal responsibility message, a theme he renewed Thursday at his weekly coronavirus update at the state Capitol. He has said the five-level color-coded guidelines are to be used by local leaders “as a baseline for their own policies.”

City leaders in many communities, including Fargo, Bismarck and Minot, have moved to require face coverings in most settings, though the directives are not enforced.

Burgum said more than half of the state’s population are living in areas that have some sort of directive to wear masks.

“We have seen communities coming together. We’re seeing some progress,” the Republican governor said.

There are “signs of optimism — I wouldn’t say we’ve turned the corner yet,” he said.

Earlier Thursday, the North Dakota Department of Health reported six hospitalizations in the last day due to the coronavirus, increasing the total number of patients in medical facilities to a record 184.

North Dakota’s death toll from COVID-19 hit 499 on Thursday, with health officials reporting an additional 11 deaths. October has been the deadliest month to date from the coronavirus, accounting for 228 of the deaths recorded since the pandemic began.

Health officials reported a record 1,222 new infections from the virus on Thursday, and a daily positivity rate of 15.6%.

The COVID Tracking Project reported that North Dakota has had more than 1,442 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, which leads the nation. The rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by more than 40% in the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

There were 240 available inpatient beds plus 23 intensive care unit beds in North Dakota, according to state data.

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The Latest: Ky. gov urges more care in hardest-hit counties

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor is urging people in the state’s counties hit hardest by the pandemic to take stricter steps to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Andy Beshear stressed Monday that he is only offering recommendations — not mandates.

Beshear says people should avoid hosting or attending gatherings of any size. He says employers should allow employees to work from home when possible, and noncritical government offices should operate virtually. Also, he says, in-person shopping should be reduced, with people opting to order online for pickup.

The recommendations are aimed at the 55 counties — nearly half of all Kentucky counties — with the highest infection rates. Those counties have a daily average of at least 25 new virus cases per 100,000 residents.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Trump to intensify his campaign schedule despite U.S. virus surge, new White House outbreak

— Wary of angering public with restrictions, Iran has few ways to contain virus

— Nations across Europe enact more sweeping restrictions to try to slow surging infection rates

— Mexico acknowledges far more deaths than officially confirmed, saying 139,153 now attributable to COVID-19

— El Paso, Texas imposes curfew as virus cases overwhelm hospitals

— COVID-19 cases surge in north-central West Virginia county, shutting down schools and sports

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— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is again imploring people in his state to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which can cause the sometimes deadly COVID-19.

During his daily briefing Monday, delivered from the OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Pritzker said there is a “COVID storm on the rise, and we have to get prepared.”

Pritzker spoke two days after Illinois officials reported 6,131 coronavirus infections, which was a new single-day high for the state.

His public health director reported another 4,729 fresh cases Monday, with 17 deaths from COVID-19.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is expanding a mask mandate to seven additional counties to try to control the spread of the coronavirus as cases increase rapidly in some areas.

His new order takes effect Wednesday and lasts until at least Nov. 11.

Sixteen of Mississippi’s 82 counties will now have a requirement for people to wear face coverings when they are indoors away from their homes. Social gatherings in those 16 counties also will be limited to 10 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.

Reeves says the restrictions are in counties that have had at least 200 confirmed virus cases or at least 500 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents during a recent two-week period.

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WASHINGTON — The White House coronavirus response coordinator said Monday that North Dakota’s capital city had the worst COVID-19 protocols she’s seen in her travels around the country after she spent a day looking around.

Dr. Deborah Birx, whose tour has taken her to nearly 40 states, said

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‘Pretty awful.’ Two Bay Area counties halt COVID-19 test program run by Google offshoot

A person displays their documentation behind the rolled up car window, to enter the Verily coronavirus free drive-up testing site at Cal Expo in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, March 27, 2020. Area residents who are 18 or older and experiencing mild to moderate symptoms can apply online for Project Baseline's COVID-19 screening in-person testing. The program has been operating in the San Francisco Bay Area before expanding to Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A person displays documentation to enter a Verily coronavirus free drive-up testing site at Cal Expo in Sacramento in March. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Amid fanfare in March, California officials celebrated the launch of a multimillion-dollar contract with Verily — Google’s health-focused sister company — that they said would vastly expand coronavirus testing among the state’s impoverished and underserved communities.

But seven months later, San Francisco and Alameda counties — two of the state’s most populous — have severed ties with the company’s testing sites amid concerns about patients’ data privacy and complaints that funding intended to boost testing in low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods instead was benefiting higher-income residents in other communities.

San Francisco and Alameda are among at least 28 counties, including Los Angeles, where California has paid Verily to boost testing capacity through contracts collectively worth $55 million, according to a spokesperson for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. About half have received coronavirus tests through six mobile units that travel among rural areas.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has heralded the investment as a game-changer in addressing persistent inequities in access to testing across the state that tend to fall along lines of ethnicity and income. The goal, he said in April, touting six new Verily testing sites, was to “make sure we’re truly testing California broadly defined, not just parts of California and those that somehow have the privilege of getting ahead of the line.”

Yet the roadblocks for getting underrepresented populations to use the program soon became apparent to Alameda County officials. In a June letter to California Secretary of Health Mark Ghaly, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other members of the county’s COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force raised numerous concerns about the Verily protocols.

Among their complaints: People signing up for a test through Verily had to do so online, using an existing or newly created Gmail account; the sign-ups were offered only in English or Spanish; and participants were asked to provide sensitive personal information, including their home address and whether they were managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity or congestive heart failure, which could expose their data to third-party use.

“It is critical in this crisis that we continue to build trust between government and healthcare providers and vulnerable communities,” the task force members wrote.

Verily had two sites in Alameda County, and one was shuttered by May. The second, located at an Oakland church, closed in August and is set to reopen using a different testing vendor. Alameda County testing director Dr. Jocelyn Freeman Garrick said that while the Verily sites helped the county reach testing goals in terms of raw numbers, they were phased out because of long wait times of a week or more for results, and because the tests were not reaching the residents in greatest need.

Verily does not manufacture the tests used at its California sites. It contracts with major corporations such as Quest Diagnostics and Thermo Fisher Scientific to provide

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Mississippi gov. orders mask use in 9 counties

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he is imposing a mask mandate for public indoor spaces and other restrictions in nine of the state’s counties to curb the spread of the coronavirus after weeks of steadily rising case numbers.

Reeves notes that Mississippi saw a spike in cases during the summer. He says: “We know what can happen if we allow this to get out of control, so want to be proactive to prevent that from happening.”

The governor adds that he does not think what is happening in Mississippi qualifies as a spike, saying that “we’ve seen a relatively slow, slight increase over the last six weeks.”


In the past week, Mississippi has had two days when the daily number of new cases reached more than 1,000. That hadn’t happened since mid-August.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide top 40 million but experts say that’s only the tip of the iceberg

— Coronavirus vaccines will require non-stop refrigeration to stay potent and safe, which may leave 3 billion people without access to them

— India reports lowest daily virus death toll in three months; Belgium and Slovakia slap night-time curfews on residents to control virus spread.

— To avoid the economic hit of full lockdowns, some places are trying more targeted restrictions

— Congress is past the point of being able to deliver more coronavirus relief before the Nov. 3 election

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico Tech has temporarily shut down out of caution against COVID-19 after officials learned of several off-campus weekend parties.

In announcing the school’s closing on Monday, University President Stephen Wells said on the school’s website that 50 to 100 students gathered over the weekend at multiple parties in the area surrounding the Socorro campus. Wells says extreme measures are needed due to “the irresponsibility of a few.”

State health officials on Monday reported an additional 518 confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to more than 37,300 since the pandemic began.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association is renewing the group’s call for a statewide mask mandate as the number of people hospitalized due to the coronavirus has reached record levels.

Association President George Monks says in a tweet that cities in Oklahoma that have adopted mask ordinances have seen lower rates of infection. He says that “we need face mask mandates to protect more of our Oklahoma citizens.”

The association has been calling for a statewide mask mandate since the summer, but Gov. Kevin Stitt has repeatedly said he has no plans to do so, citing concerns about how such a mandate would be enforced.

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OWOSSO, Mich. — A lawyer says misdemeanor charges are being dropped against a Michigan barber who defied Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and reopened his shop last spring during the coronavirus pandemic.

David Kallman said

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