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Failure to quarantine now class B misdemeanor

masked_burgum.jpg 2020 Jeremy Turley photo
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum wears a mask during an interview in Bismarck on Thursday, Sept. 3. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

Governor Doug Burgum announced Wednesday that the Interim State Health Officer Dr. Paul Mariani amended a state health officer order making failure to quarantine a Class B Misdemeanor for individuals identified by the North Dakota Department of Health as having been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.

“Whenever possible, all close contacts of individuals infected with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days past the last day they were in contact with the person who tested positive,” said Mariani. “Individuals who are named as close contacts and comply with their quarantine are actively protecting older adults in their community. These are our parents and grandparents. Quarantine is not convenient, but it is necessary.”

The order cites North Dakota Century Code 23-07.6-02(3) and specifies that, “Notice is hereby given that a person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if that person fails to cooperate with this order to quarantine.”

The previous order only required that people who tested positive for the virus remain isolated, but as cases continue to mount in the state it was identified that close contacts refusing to quarantine had become such a significant problem that an amendment to the order had become necessary.

Burgum supported the decision citing recent data from the health department showing nearly 33% of all close contacts ended up testing positive for the virus themselves and highlighting that across the state local public health officials have requested amendments to the original order following refusals to quarantine.

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“This could give them a little clout," Burgum said Wednesday, highlighting the amendment’s legal changes. "It now has the force of law.”

While the details surrounding how law enforcement will ascertain whether or not an individual is under quarantine remains murky, failure to obey quarantine order is now classified as a crime in the state with enforceability of the order in the hands of local jurisdictions.

In Dickinson, Mayor Scott Decker said that the city had not been contacted concerning enforcement of the new order.

“Besides his briefing, we have not been contacted saying that it is our responsibility to enforce anything,” he said. “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.”

The Governor also appealed to citizens to “think about the risk they pose to the public when you defy the quarantine orders.”

“If you are positive and you can get other people sick who might die from this, I would hope you would isolate,” he said. “There is a 1 in 3 chance you might turn up positive yourself. That alone should be enough incentive for you to comply with the quarantine.”

Those exempted from the new order are individuals deemed “essential critical infrastructure workers” as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, so long as they remain asymptomatic and take precautions to prevent the spread to others.

For more information, or to read the entire order visit health.nd.gov.

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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