FARGO — COVID-19 is soaring out of control in North Dakota.
There are thousands of new infections and dozens of new deaths per month. Hospitals in the state are overwhelmed, and are basically out of beds. All this is primarily because many North Dakotans refuse to be vaccinated. The state ranks a dangerous and embarrassing 47th in the nation in vaccination rates.
“If our immunizations hit 90%, our hospitals would be empty, there would be no need to wear masks, and COVID would be eliminated” longtime North Dakota Public Health Officer Dr. Stephen McDonough recently told me. “Vaccines are the most effective interventions ever invented.”
When I was very young, we all took our polio vaccines, and virtually nobody complained. And guess what? Polio has been eradicated from the U.S.
So bravo to President Joe Biden for his plan to require vaccinations or weekly testing at businesses with more than 100 people. Not only will this reduce infections, but it will make for safer workplaces, and encourage customers to patronize those businesses.
All this brings us to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Whatever Burgum’s plan is to reduce COVID-19 cases in the state is an enormous failure. Thus, it’s shameful that he has blasted Biden’s plan, calling it “dangerous” and a “blatant federal overreach,” while threatening to sue the Biden Administration. What Burgum is basically saying is let’s do nothing different and let the virus keep rapidly spreading throughout the state.
Would Burgum have made that statement if fellow Republican and former President Donald Trump issued the same order? No way.
This is all about politics. Burgum has chosen partisan politics over the health of North Dakota citizens. Many of those ignorant citizens get their “information” about vaccination efforts from Fox News. That’s sort of like learning science from Homer Simpson. That’s the same Fox News, which blasts vaccine requirements on air but requires its employees to be vaccinated or regularly tested off air, just like Biden’s plan.
Beyond that, it’s not an overreach. The Public Health Service Act allows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the Health and Human Services Department to take action to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration can order safety requirements in workplaces. Not to be overlooked, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government can order vaccinations.
Burgum says he’s fighting for freedom. Of course that freedom is the right to spread this deadly virus. “The governor really ought to start leading our state and bring science to our state,” McDonough said. “He oversaw a state with the highest death rate in the world for a month and a half … I’m disgusted. State leaders don’t have the courage to do the right thing. They are terrified of anti-science and anti-truth right-wing extremists.”
We will never get out of this disastrous pandemic unless many more people get vaccinated. Because too many nutcases aren’t getting vaccinated, stronger action is necessary.
When Burgum first announced his candidacy for governor, he said he “is not a politician.” He sure sounds like a politician now.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email Jim at email@example.com.