Stark County's ND Smart Restart risk level has been changed from yellow to orange, but businesses will not be forced to close as previously planned.
Wednesday evening, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum simultaneously announced he was moving 16 counties in the state from “Yellow” (moderate risk) to "Orange" (high risk) on the state's coronavirus alert system. Burgum further announced alterations the ND Smart Restart Guidelines, which give county governments strong recommendations on how to combat the coronavirus based on their risk level.
Prior to altering the guidelines, a move from yellow to orange meant the closure of all non-essential businesses. That has now been changed to a 25% occupancy with a maximum number of 50 people. Businesses are also encouraged to require face coverings.
Restaurants and bars are recommended to switch to take-out, curbside or delivery only. If they are open, occupancy guidelines are the same as above. Six feet of distance should be between tables.
Bars are recommended to install plexiglass between seating and allow room for up to two guests followed by a separation of six feet.
In pools, individual groups should be limited to one family or group no larger than 10 people. Saunas, jacuzzi, hot tubs and steam rooms are to allow for one person per 100 square feet.
In fitness centers, the guidelines require face coverings for employees and patrons. Fitness equipment should be placed 12 feet apart. Full contact games should be discouraged.
"Large indoor and outdoor gatherings are permitted if approved by local community leaders and the local health authority," according to a press release from the North Dakota Joint Information Center.
In Stark County's case, the local health authority is Southwestern District Health Unit.
"I'm not going to approve any large gatherings," said Sherry Adams, executive director of SWDHU. "If others go over me, I guess they will. I can't in good conscious approve these large gatherings when the recommendation is 50 or less, as well as the situation we're in ... It's not that we want to be mean. It's that we are just getting to a very critical point that if we don't do something, things will be closing because of more and more people being sick."
She's hoping that the lack of large gatherings will help control the spread of the virus.
The guidelines recommend canceling gatherings of any size where social distancing cannot be maintained and limiting party sizes to one household or fewer than 10 people.
The new guidelines are effective as of 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16.
"The strong hope is that people will follow these guidelines so that we don't end up actually going to where we have to close," Adams said.
Additionally, nine counties are moving from low risk (green) to moderate risk (yellow), and two counties are moving from new normal (blue) to low risk (green).