I have been impressed with Gov. Doug Burgum’s leadership in the COVID-19 response. His communication has been assertive but empathetic. He has been more responsive than governors in some states, and time will tell if perhaps he hasn’t given North Dakota some lead time in our response.

But it should come as no surprise that Burgum is stepping up in this way during the COVID-19 epidemic. This is exactly what his grandfather Dr. BK Kilbourne did as the first full-time health officer of Fargo.

In 1924, Fargo was hit with a smallpox epidemic. Dr. Kilbourne was able to organize a mass smallpox vaccination campaign, which resulted in 25% of Fargoans being vaccinated against smallpox. In 1925, he piggy-backed on that success, organizing a vaccination campaign against diphtheria, which he made free to all in need.

Epidemics have happened in our history, and the triple threat of evidence-based applications of public health, strong political leadership, and the cooperation and faith of our citizens, has always allowed us to come out on top. Let’s stick together and see this one through as well.

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