North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum broke from his President Trump talking points Thursday and delivered a level-headed, fact-based address to the state that urged his constituents to remain calm but vigilant when it comes to the coronavirus.
Burgum, a science- and data-based businessman, even took the time to explain why it's so important to try and stop the rapid spread of the virus. He used the Centers for Disease Control's term "flattening the curve," describing how the goal of measures taken to thwart coronavirus are meant to avoid a sharp spike in cases, which would overwhelm North Dakota's health care system.
It's math, the governor said, and we're trying to take out the peak.
It was a refreshing take, particularly after Wednesday night's shaky, politically driven address by Trump.
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Which makes the business-as-usual approach by North Dakota when it comes to state high school tournaments all the more confusing.
Burgum and his director of public health, Kirby Kruger, both urged North Dakotans to avoid large gatherings, saying that is a good way to stop rapid spread of the virus.
Yet when asked if the state had been in contact with the North Dakota High School Activities Association to discuss the state basketball tournaments scheduled this weekend and next, Kruger said yes but given the low numbers of people with coronavirus in the state there was no need to take drastic action.
Kruger said the state urged the high school association to make sure there was plenty of soap and hand sanitizer available in the facilities where the tournaments are being held. He also urged people vulnerable to the virus to not attend.
So, to recap:
Avoid large gatherings, but feel free to attend large gatherings where there is a lot of soap.
In the annals of mixed messages, this is a hall of famer.
The North Dakota Class A boys and girls basketball state tournaments are being played in Fargo today through Saturday. The Class B boys basketball tournament, the state's largest high school event expected to draw 10,000 spectators per day to the Bismarck Civic Center, will be March 19-21.
In Minnesota, the state high school league has limited attendance to the bare bones.
The NDHSAA has thus far declined the course of action of many other basketball tournaments — playing the games with nobody in attendance except essential personnel and a limited number of family members.
A statement by the NDHSAA acknowledged the situation is rapidly changing:
"Currently there are no recommendations from the Governor's Office or NDDoH that alterations to tournament schedules or fan access are necessary, although it is a fluid situation and may change quickly. Arena staffs are taking extra precautionary measures, including increased hand sanitizer stations and frequent disinfectant of high-touch areas. While we want all fans to enjoy our events, we encourage fans who are ill or at higher risk for severe illness to stay home and enjoy the events online or on the television. Together we will remain responsive to the recommendations and requirements of the CDC and NDDoH."
The association appears to be waiting for the go-ahead from the state before it takes action. It perhaps wants political cover from a higher power before it makes such a controversial decision.
Many other levels of sports, from the mighty NCAA to the mightier NBA, have taken drastic steps to attempt to slow the spread of the virus. The NCAA announced Thursday that it would cancel its massive basketball tournaments, among others. The NBA suspended its season. Numerous major-college basketball tournaments are canceling. Even some state high school associations are halting activities temporarily.
The shows go on, for now, in North Dakota.
We are of hardy stock up here. The risk to otherwise healthy people remains minimal. Burgum and others are correct when they say there is no need to panic.
The governor also said this is no time to be North Dakota Tough. He said to take the precautions necessary to avoid spreading the virus and we'll get through this together.
Except, apparently, when it comes to putting thousands of people together in arenas to watch high school basketball.