We have reached 1,166 North Dakotans known to be infected by the coronavirus - the highest it's ever been of the pandemic. That statistic was relayed to us yesterday from North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum during his weekly press conference. He also had a mask on, which was out of the norm for him when he in the past entered the news conferences. Burgum was there to tell us about a new campaign to encourage residents to wear facemasks - He went on to echo what the federal agencies have been saying, that one of the most effective and cost-cutting ways in the battle against the virus is consistent mask-wearing.

Our local businesses were brought up, and Burgum had praise for all that has put forth a concerted effort to require customers to wear masks inside their establishments. A question was asked about mandating masks in the state Capital or other public buildings, but there was no direct answer from the Governor. Still, the numbers continue to rise, yesterday the North Dakota Department of Health reported 117 new cases of COVID-19. One of the other things Burgum brought up was that North Dakota has been selected to be part of a pilot project for COVID-19 vaccine planning. The program is run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - The CDC along with the Department of Defense will team up to create a logistical plan for distributing a hypothetical vaccine. The other states in the program - Minnesota, Florida, California, and Philadelphia. The bottom line is that Burgum said it appears that the virus is spreading more rapidly in rural areas and everyone should take basic precautions like mask-wearing and social distancing.