As Grand Forks County moves up state's risk level meter, Armacost says state has been responsive to UND's needs

UND graduate student Alisha Parisien is tested during Wednesday's mass testing event at the UND High Performance Center. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND President Andrew Armacost says, given the increase in coronavirus cases at UND and in Grand Forks County, it’s not surprising the county saw a bump up on the state’s risk level meter.

Grand Forks County was one of eight counties in the state which moved up to the moderate, or yellow, risk level on Thursday, Sept. 3. Other counties include Barnes, Benson, Burleigh, McLean, Morton, Stark and Williams.

Gov. Doug Burgum said the change to yellow doesn’t “practically change anything for UND” because the North Dakota University System has its own set of guidelines and, at any point, presidents can decide to implement controls on their campuses.

Armacost said the university’s restrictions, including wearing a mask on campus and restrictions on class sizes, have been consistent with what the state expects at the yellow level.

“Given the consistent rise in cases, this change from green to yellow doesn’t come as a surprise,” Armacost said. “Furthermore, I hope that it will encourage all of our people on campus and in the community to continue to practice safe behaviors that we talk about to prevent the spread of the disease.”


As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard, which updates in real time, showed 187 active cases of coronavirus. Of that number, 176 were students, 10 were staff and one was faculty. But those numbers are down slightly compared to last week when total active cases crossed 300. In total, the university listed 642 individuals in quarantine or isolation as of Thursday evening.

The university’s positivity rate has been around 10% for the past week.

Burgum said the goal is to protect the most vulnerable and that isolation and quarantine would be key to limiting community spread in a place such as Grand Forks where cases tilt toward younger people.

UND makes up a large chunk of Grand Forks County cases. As of Thursday, there were 491 active cases in the county. Of those cases, 303 were between the ages of 20 to 29.

UND has contracted with local hotels to purchase rooms for students who have tested positive for the virus or who may be a close contact of a positive case but may not have a place to isolate or quarantine alone.

“I think it certainly sends a strong signal from the governor about his expectations for what the citizens of the state or in this case the citizens of Grand Forks County need to do,” Armacost said.

The state has supported UND as it deals with higher caseloads of COVID-19, including the allocation of CARES Act dollars to the university and added testing and contact tracers for the school, Armacost said..

“When we asked for testing in large numbers, the state responded. When we asked for the ability to hire contact tracers, the state responded,” Armacost said. “We have great appreciation for the resources and the funding that we've gotten from the state.”


The changes in risk level were based on three main criteria: 14-day rolling average of active cases per 10,000 people, 14-day rolling average of tests performed per 10,000 people and 14-day rolling average percent positive rate.

The county-by-county risk levels will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4. For those moving from low risk to moderate risk, the recommendation for capacity in bars and restaurants decreases from 75% to 50% and the recommendation for large gatherings would decrease from 75% up to 500 attendees, to 50% occupancy up to 250.

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
What To Read Next
Get Local