1. North Dakota nurses urge governor to repeal controversial health care measure, stand firm on mask mandate

Nurses from the North Dakota Nurses Association urged Gov. Doug Burgum to hold the line on the state's new mask mandate in a press conference Friday, Nov. 20, stressing that widespread compliance with the new order will be crucial to keep an overburdened hospital system afloat through the winter.

Painting a nightmare picture inside hospitals at their breaking point, representatives from the health care association said nurses have been asked to take shortcuts to stave off the costs of North Dakota's hospital staffing shortages, sometimes risking their own safety or compromising complete patient care in the process.

Read more from The Forum's Adam Willis

2. Hurting in the heartland: 'All those funerals' as North Dakota nursing homes battle coronavirus outbreaks. What can be done?

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Kim Stafford stands Wednesday, Nov. 18, outside the Angel Wing of the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd in New Rockford, N.D., where her father Don Heinitz died of COVID-19 on Sept. 14. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Kim Stafford stands Wednesday, Nov. 18, outside the Angel Wing of the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd in New Rockford, N.D., where her father Don Heinitz died of COVID-19 on Sept. 14. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Don Heinitz entered the grim annals of North Dakota’s coronavirus pandemic as a deceased “Man in his 80s from Eddy County with underlying health conditions.”

That mention of a nameless, faceless data point — one of five North Dakotans reported dead from COVID-19 on a Wednesday — appeared on a news release issued on Sept. 16.

To Kim Stafford, the statistical tidbit failed even to hint at a portrait of her father. For her, Heinitz was a beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather who lived nearly all of his 84 years in Carrington, a tight-knit farming town in central North Dakota. He was a proud graduate of the University of North Dakota, an honorably discharged National Guardsman and a longtime small business owner.

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3. North Dakota AG calls governor's argument to appoint lawmaker worse than 'weak'

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

The ongoing battle to fill a deceased candidate's seat in the North Dakota House of Representatives got lively on Friday, Nov. 20, as the state Supreme Court heard arguments from three rival parties.

Gov. Doug Burgum, the North Dakota Legislative Assembly and the Democratic-NPL Party are all vying to fill the District 8 seat, and each presented their case to the Supreme Court in a virtual hearing.

Earlier this month, residents in District 8, a rural district north of Bismarck, elected Dave Andahl to represent them in the House. Andahl, however, died due to COVID-19 complications in early October, and there was not time to remove his name from the ballot.

Read more from The Forum's Michelle Griffith

4. Sanford Health executives disavow CEO's email about COVID-19 and masks

Kelby Krabbenhoft
Kelby Krabbenhoft

Top Sanford Health executives on Friday, Nov. 20 disavowed an email sent earlier in the week by the health system's president and CEO regarding masking and COVID-19, and apologized to the organization's employees.

Sanford Health President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, who is not a doctor, sent an email to employees on Wednesday in which said he wouldn't wear a mask because he considered it a "symbolic gesture" since he had caught COVID-19 and now considered himself immune.

But the health system issued a statement on Friday flatly distancing itself from Krabbenhoft's claims.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Fugleberg

5. NDSU committee approves land acknowledgment draft

The campus at North Dakota State University as seen March 23, 2020. Forum file photo
The campus at North Dakota State University as seen March 23, 2020. Forum file photo

North Dakota State University is one step closer to finalizing a statement to recognize the campus is on land once occupied by Native Americans.

President Dean Bresciani announced Thursday, Nov. 19, that a committee has drafted a land acknowledgment statement that was backed by Fargo’s Native American Commission on Nov. 5. The statement needs final approval from Bresciani.

“A website is under development to provide more context about the statement, its development and how it may be used,” he said in a Thursday update to the campus.

Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten