Port: Burgum's shutdown of schools and businesses seems to be slowing the coronavirus spread

Keyframe- Burgum.jpg
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINOT, N.D. — It's hard to describe how painful the coronavirus quarantine has been for North Dakotans and all Americans.

The kids aren't going to school. Many of us are working from home. Social events are canceled. Businesses are closed. Worry and anxiety are rampant.

And that's before we talk about the economic toll of this disruption, not to mention the hit our state budget is going to take .

The question a lot of us are asking is, will this shutdown of our communities be worth it?

I've gone back and culled some data from the press releases from Gov. Doug Burgum's administration. The graph below shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota by day, through the most recent release of data from the North Dakota Joint Information Center, which landed in my email inbox at 10:21 am.


But before you look at the graph, here's a bit of a timeline:

  • March 11 —North Dakota officials detect the first case of COVID-19 in the state
  • March 13 —Burgum orders North Dakota schools closed
  • March 18 —The first case of COVID-19 resulting from community spread is confirmed
  • March 19 —Burgum orders businesses like bars, restaurants, and gyms to restrict operations

With those dates in mind, look at the trend for the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota:

EMBED: Daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota

I want to caution that I am not any sort of medical professional. I am not a physician. I'm not an epidemiologist.

I do spend a lot of time analyzing public policy.

I can tell you that if the desired outcome of Gov. Burgum's policies related to schools and businesses and social interactions is to "flatten the curve" of the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems, based on this (admittedly short) timeline based on (admittedly superficial) data, we're achieving that goal.

The curve in the chart above is flatter since Burgum issued his orders.

So far, anyway.


One of the unsolvable problems of this sort of analysis is we can only guess at what would have happened if Burgum hadn't acted.

A couple of other numbers worth noting.

Per the most recent data released by the state, just five of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far have been hospitalized.

None have died. I don't know if those numbers will change or not, I suspect we'll probably see more hospitalizations at the very least, but it seems like Burgum's policies offer us the best chance to keep them the same.

Burgum has broad executive powers in times of emergencies, but there are practical limitations for how far those powers go. Americans generally, and North Dakotans specifically, are an independent-minded lot. At some point, the pressures we feel to go back to normal, be they social or economic, may push us to start ignoring the government's warnings.

This data is an argument for staying the course.

With the worst maybe yet to come, it seems like it's working.

To comment on this article, visit


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.
What to read next
Former Miss America Cara Mund announced on social media she will run as an independent for North Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, joining incumbent Republican Armstrong and his Democratic challenger Mark Haugen. The election is three months away and until Mund dropped this bombshell, the state was headed to another snoozer election cycle.
China's pattern of using economic development projects to disguise its aggressive espionage in the United States demands that the China-backed corn mill in Grand Forks receive thorough scrutiny.
It's clear anti-abortion activists won't stop with their Roe victory. And after what happened in Kansas on Tuesday, Minnesota Democrats should be even more emboldened to talk with voters about the importance of women having access to legal, safe abortions.
The historic bill passed Tuesday night on a vote of 86-11 is the exact bill Republicans like ND Sen. Kevin Cramer voted against last week. Word for word. Their opposition last week was performative and nothing more.