MINOT, N.D. — It's hard to describe how painful the coronavirus quarantine has been for North Dakotans and all Americans.
The kids aren't going to school. Many of us are working from home. Social events are canceled. Businesses are closed. Worry and anxiety are rampant.
And that's before we talk about the economic toll of this disruption, not to mention the hit our state budget is going to take.
The question a lot of us are asking is, will this shutdown of our communities be worth it?
I've gone back and culled some data from the press releases from Gov. Doug Burgum's administration. The graph below shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota by day, through the most recent release of data from the North Dakota Joint Information Center, which landed in my email inbox at 10:21 am.
But before you look at the graph, here's a bit of a timeline:
- March 11 —North Dakota officials detect the first case of COVID-19 in the state
- March 13 —Burgum orders North Dakota schools closed
- March 18 —The first case of COVID-19 resulting from community spread is confirmed
- March 19 —Burgum orders businesses like bars, restaurants, and gyms to restrict operations
With those dates in mind, look at the trend for the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota:
I want to caution that I am not any sort of medical professional. I am not a physician. I'm not an epidemiologist.
I do spend a lot of time analyzing public policy.
I can tell you that if the desired outcome of Gov. Burgum's policies related to schools and businesses and social interactions is to "flatten the curve" of the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems, based on this (admittedly short) timeline based on (admittedly superficial) data, we're achieving that goal.
The curve in the chart above is flatter since Burgum issued his orders.
So far, anyway.
One of the unsolvable problems of this sort of analysis is we can only guess at what would have happened if Burgum hadn't acted.
A couple of other numbers worth noting.
Per the most recent data released by the state, just five of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far have been hospitalized.
None have died. I don't know if those numbers will change or not, I suspect we'll probably see more hospitalizations at the very least, but it seems like Burgum's policies offer us the best chance to keep them the same.
Burgum has broad executive powers in times of emergencies, but there are practical limitations for how far those powers go. Americans generally, and North Dakotans specifically, are an independent-minded lot. At some point, the pressures we feel to go back to normal, be they social or economic, may push us to start ignoring the government's warnings.
This data is an argument for staying the course.
With the worst maybe yet to come, it seems like it's working.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.