As of Oct. 16, authorities in North Dakota are moving 16 of the state's 53 counties to the high (orange) risk level on the state's five-tier color-coded coronavirus (COVID-19) risk categorization scale. The move comes amid an increase in disease activity in the affected jurisdictions. Under North Dakota's system, individual counties are categorized into one of the following five risk levels for COVID-19: critical (red), high (orange), moderate (yellow), low (green), and new normal (blue). Restrictions are imposed based on local disease activity.

No counties are currently at the critical (red) level.

At the high (orange) risk level, occupancy of rooms and confined spaces are limited to 25-percent capacity up to a limit of 50 people; face coverings are required. Indoor dining at restaurants, bars, and food service establishments is not recommended but may occur at 25 percent of the establishment's capacity. Gyms and fitness centers should limit capacity to 25 percent with no more than 50 people; face coverings are required. Retail stores, personal care services, parks, and recreational facilities may open as long as they follow proper social distancing and hygiene procedures. As of Oct. 16, Benson, Bottineau, Burleigh, Cass, Dickey, Dunn, Emmons, Golden Valley, McHenry, McKenzie, McLean, Morton, Mountrail, Sioux, Stark, and Williams are at the high (orange) level.

At the moderate (yellow) level, restaurants and bars may have dine-in service at 50-percent capacity, and event spaces can hold 50-percent capacity with a maximum of 250 people. Retail stores, gyms, fitness centers, personal care services, parks, and recreational facilities may open as long as they follow proper social distancing and hygiene procedures. As of Oct. 16, there are 15 counties at the moderate (yellow) level, including Grand Forks, Richland, and Ward.

At the low (green) level, dine-in service at restaurants and bars is limited to 75-percent capacity. Events are limited to 500 people, provided that proper health criteria are met. Retail stores, gyms, fitness centers, event spaces, and personal care centers may open and must follow proper hygiene and social distancing measures. As of Oct. 16, there are 17 counties in the low (green) level, including Stutsman and Rolette.

At the new normal (blue) level, all retail stores, restaurants, bars, gyms, fitness centers, and event spaces may operate without capacity restrictions and must follow strict hygiene and cleaning standards. As of Oct. 16, only Cavalier, Griggs, Pierce, Ransom, and Steele counties are on the new normal (blue) level.

Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and those in transport, security, media, and critical manufacturing, may continue operating. All businesses must screen workers for possible symptoms and send home any employee who is ill; limit the number of persons allowed inside their establishments at any given time; stagger shifts if possible, and encourage the use of facemasks, among other measures. The state government encourages telecommuting and other work-from-home arrangements wherever possible.

Officials could amend the orders at short notice, depending on disease activity in the coming weeks.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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