North Dakota, Blizzards, Masks, and Shaming
by Doyle Ranstrom on Nov 16, 2020
Assuming I was ever an adult, there is a lot of debate on this, I spent most of my adult life as a resident of North Dakota. We lived in Fargo.
I cannot tell you how many people have asked me about the movie "Fargo". I always say, "yea, ya betcha." It was a pretty good movie then don'tch you know." For the record, I did not like the movie. In my opinion, was not that funny, emphasized stereotypes, and glorified violence. All Coen brothers trademarks.
North Dakota is a place of extreme weather. It can be 100 degrees and humid in the summer and days of below zero in the winter. Anytime you live in a place when in January five above and sunny is a warming trend, because it has been -30 or worse for the past week, you realize you have made a poor choice of residences.
Brutal blizzards are frequent in North Dakota starting the fall and they can go into the spring. During a blizzard, it is not uncommon to see travelers stuck on an Interstate being rescued by public servants who are wearing warm-weather clothes. It has not occurred these "less" then geniuses if there is winter weather outside, it simply common sense to have winter wear clothes inside and access to severe winter weather apparel in case there are travel problems.
Residents of North Dakota understand this. They know even a reasonable winter day can change to treacherous, even deadly, very quickly, and travel prepared. Again, it is simply common sense.
Unfortunately, common sense left state leaders and many residences when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. For the past week ending 11/15/2020, ND led the country in deaths per capita and new cases per capita.
In response, the Governor of ND on 11/13/2020 installed a mask mandate and some business restrictions.
The Governor also announced that since ND hospitals are at capacity with many are being under-staffed, health care workers who have been diagnosed with Covid but are asymptomatic can continue to work. The reason is of course the state has no other options.
I have talked with friends in North Dakota who have been very concerned about themselves and their families because of the state's "dark ages" response to the pandemic. It is the equivalent of wearing shorts and a t-shirt while traveling during a blizzard. If the person does not have to get out of the car, it will be fine. But indicates that though the traveler has an elevator, there is not a penthouse suite.
Having a mask mandate does not guarantee a state's residents will not get Covid. Nor does social distancing. But both reduce the risk. Equally if not more important, it flattens the curve of infected residents showing up at health care facilities reducing the strain and stress on staff and services. it is common sense.
Let's be clear. This not a failure of the health care workers. It is not a failure of the wonderful people who live there. It is a complete and total failure of the political party that dominates politics in the state. It is the party's failure to invest and fund public health. It is the party's failure to develop a comprehensive health care plan. It is a failure to plan for the future and manage risk/reward risk for the state's residents. And finally, it is a failure to understand how economies work and manage economic growth.
I am glad North Dakota finally implemented a mask mandate and business restrictions. I am sad it did not come earlier. If North Dakota had established a thoughtful, informed pandemic response based on science from the very beginning, how would the state be ranked now?
Finally, remember it was the Governor of North Dakota who, on May 22nd, pleased with residents of the state, "there should be no mask shaming" in the state. For those in the state who did try and shame others for wearing masks, I hope they are now ashamed. They may have led to the state's current ranking as the highest per capita deaths in the US.