McFeely: Calling Dr. Vinnie Boombatz for ND coronavirus comic relief

With health officers quitting on Gov. Burgum, maybe laughter would be the best COVID medicine

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks to the media next to Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, on Saturday, Aug. 29, at the McGovern Alumni Center in Fargo. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

About the only doctor willing to be North Dakota's state health officer might be Dr. Vinnie Boombatz. Remember him?

He was Rodney Dangerfield's "doctor."

When Rodney told Dr. Boombatz he wanted a second opinion of his diagnosis, the doctor said, "Fine. You're ugly, too."

Rodney told Boombatz that every morning when he woke up, he'd look in the mirror and throw up.

"Doc, what's wrong with me?" Rodney asked.


"I don't know," Boombatz said, "but your eyesight is perfect."

Ol' Vinnie might be the perfect fit to help guide North Dakota through the coronavirus pandemic.

The state is in need of comic relief with the way Gov. Doug Burgum and legislative leaders are handling things. The way Gov. Light Touch is handling it is a joke. Burgum, who once received credit in this space for his early handling of the pandemic, is burning through health officers like COVID through Sturgis.

Which reminds me. South isn't the only Dakota with a governor willing to ensure its citizens have the freedom and liberty to infect other innocent people.

Meh. Who needs the advice of so-called "doctors" who rely on alleged "science" when you can take medical advice from a 78-year-old former chamber of commerce director from Dickinson like Rich Wardner and a 65-year-old seed salesman from New Rockford like Chet Pollert?

That's what Burgum has chosen to do. He's making coronavirus decisions, which could be life and death for some of his constituents, based on what the state's top legislative leaders want. He's playing politics when science would be preferred.

Sound like anybody else you know? Hint: Rhymes with "rump."

It led to another state health officer quitting on Burgum last week, the third since May and the second in 11 days. This time is was Dr. Paul Mariani of Fargo, who bailed after the state rescinded an order requiring close contacts of known COVID-19 cases to quarantine.


Mariani, apparently infected with a nasty case of ethics, said "the circumstances around the handling of the order made my position untenable."

In other words, you can kiss my stethoscope if you're going to make public health decisions based on politics and not public health.

This would be funny if it wasn't so serious. North Dakota leads the nation in per capita infections and the state is running short on intensive care beds, as per Forum Communications Co. reporting. This is a time when we need to listen to health experts, even if what we're hearing is painful.

Instead, the governor is doing his usual verbal word salad about "holistic" and "whole of government" approaches. When there's action to be taken — mask mandate, anyone? — Burgum would rather spew smart-sounding cliches.

What serious doctor would want to be his health officer now, knowing they'll be undercut by legislative leaders and Burgum won't have their back? We know three who don't.

That leaves somebody like Dr. Vinnie Boombatz.

They say laughter is the best medicine. Given North Dakota's COVID numbers, maybe it's worth a shot.

Opinion by Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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