Winter sports practices, extracurriculars to resume in North Dakota

FILE – In this April 10, 2020, file photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. After months of resisting ordering the people of North Dakota to wear masks and limit the size of gatherings, the state’s Republican governor has relented in an effort to stem a coronavirus surge that is among the worst in the U.S. Gov. Burgum’s executive order Friday night, Nov. 13, 2020, came as a surprise. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

BISMARCK, N.D. | Winter sports practices and other extracurricular activities for youth and adults will be allowed to resume at the end of November, although sports competition will remain suspended until mid-December, according to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and legislative leaders.

Burgum made the joint announcement with House Majority Leader Chet Pollert and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner on Wednesday night.

The move follows feedback from legislators, parents, school administrators, students, coaches, mental health professionals and others concerned about the impacts of suspended activities on students’ well-being, the announcement said.

The Republican governor and legislative leaders also received input from the North Dakota High School Activities Association and athletic associations.

“Our goals remain unchanged: to protect the most vulnerable, provide relief to our stressed hospitals and health care workers, keep students in school and businesses open, and preserve the winter sports season,” Burgum said.

The governor plans to issue an amended order that will allow practices to resume for high school winter sports and association, community and club sports for youth and adults starting Nov. 30. Competition is suspended until Dec. 14. The four-week time frame will allow two 14-day incubation cycles to pass before competition resumes.

Coaches and athletic associations have agreed there will be no travel for association activities outside of their home territory, no locker room use, coaches masked at all times, no spectators and facilities restricted to players, coaches and staff only.

Burgum last week issued an order requiring face coverings inside of businesses and indoor public settings, as well as in outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible. It includes exceptions for children under age 5, individuals with a medical or mental health condition or disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask, and religious services.

State health officials reported Thursday that there were 276 people in North Dakota hospitalized with COVID-19, which was 21 fewer than Wednesday.

Statewide, there were 179 available inpatient beds and only 12 intensive care unit beds in North Dakota hospitals, according to state data.

The state reported 10 new coronavirus-related deaths, increasing its death toll since the pandemic started to 795. The death count is the eighth highest per capita in the nation, at 102 deaths per 100,000 people.

North Dakota continued to rank first in the country for new cases per capita in the last two weeks. One in every 79 people in the state tested positive in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

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