Board: Universities should encourage or require masks

Thursday, July 30, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s 11 colleges and universities should develop policies and procedures that either strongly encourage or require the use masks as a precaution against the COVID-19 virus when classes resume this fall, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education said Thursday.

The board unanimously adopted the resolution at a special meeting to discuss new testing policies and other precautions, such as masks.

The meeting was held the number of deaths in the state approached triple-digits and the number of active cases and hospitalizations was the highest since the pandemic began.

The state Health Department reported 921 active cases of COVID-19 statewide, up 57 from Wednesday. Hospitalizations increased by five to 57. North Dakota’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by one to 97 as of Thursday.

Nearly 141,000 people in North Dakota have been tested for coronavirus at least once, and total tests number more than 275,000, health officials said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Joshua Wynne, the state’s chief health strategist recently appointed by Gov. Doug Burgum, said Wednesday that students will be returning to classes from well beyond North Dakota’s borders. He asked that students participate in the testing that he called a “relatively easy process.”

Wynne told the board Thursday that widespread testing is planned at the state’s bigger campuses before classes resume and “as the semester evolves.”

The university system has about 45,000 students.

Wynne said the testing of student athletes would be more “intense” because of their travel and their inability to wear masks during competition.

Wynne said a more detailed testing plan is expected next week.