Port: After urging from lawmakers, Burgum expected to rescind order making failure to quarantine a crime

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MINOT, N.D. — Wednesday, Sept. 23, Gov. Doug Burgum issued an order that made failure to quarantine after close contact with someone positive for COVID-19 a Class B Misdemeanor.

Today, Sept. 24, lawmakers are saying that order has been rescinded.

In an email sent to his caucus this afternoon, which I obtained, House Minority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said that after discussions with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, Burgum would be backing away from the order.

EMBED: Pollert email on Burgum order


Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner sent a similar message to his caucus:

EMBED: Wardner email to caucus

So far, the governor's office isn't commenting on this.

"I wouldn't have anything to report until the news has been announced," Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki told me.

There doesn't appear to have been a lot of communication with local leaders before Burgum issued the order.

“Besides his briefing, we have not been contacted saying that it is our responsibility to enforce anything,” Dickinson Mayor Scott Decker told James Miller Jr. of the Dickinson Press. “What frustrates me is the randomness of all this, and I want our community to be safe. We will have a discussion about this and what we have to do is reinforce personal responsibility in people to be cognizant of what they are doing in their off time and their interactions because it affects so many other people.”

It's unclear how this sort of an order would have enforced. Health care information is typically private. Nobody, outside of medical professionals and the individual who tested positive, would be aware that a given individual had been exposed.


How were cops going to be able to tell if someone they see out in public, and not in quarantine, is guilty of a crime under this order?

Gov. Burgum has done an excellent job leading North Dakota through the pandemic, but this order was a misfire.

Clarification: Nowatzki reached out later Thursday with this update: "It's a State Health Officer order, not an executive order, and the SHO technically rescinds it," he said.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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