The following letter was submitted to The Minuteman by Tricia Knutson.
Governor Doug Burgum,
I am a resident of a North Dakota county that does not have any coronavirus cases. I carefully follow the news of our state, country and world. I am dismayed at the importance coronavirus has gained culturally and globally. It is as if coronavirus patients and possible patients have achieved the highest cultural status. They are more important and seemingly more valuable than every child, every employee trying to feed their family, every domestic violence victim, every Christian, every individual in need of dental care and every small business owner. Your control of every North Dakotan’s life through Executive Orders 03 through 28 has only exacerbated the problem.
The vast majority of North Dakota residents that I interact with would not be so ignorant or callous as to blame you personally for any death by viral agent. One thing that many understand is that the information we have been given regarding COVID-19 is highly suspect. We were told there would be millions of deaths in a handful of weeks. We were told the virus would spread at an exponential rate. We were told that our state did not have enough medical resources. We were told that if we stayed home, we would be saving lives. None of those things we were told were true.
The computer model’s predicted deaths have been decreased from 2.2 million to 60,000 (as of April 16th, 2020), a change of negative 97.7%. These models, which you and many other governors, have followed are nearly entirely incorrect. The growth of positive coronavirus cases in North Dakota has remained low. With a growth of less than 10%, it does not match the exponential model even slightly.
ND has proven to be more than prepared. Not only does our state have nearly 283 ventilators, we have untold numbers of respiratory treatment aids. New York state, *now* has about 1 ventilator per 2,823 people. Whereas North Dakota entered “this crisis” with 1 ventilator per 2,664 people. Yet, because of our population density, or lack thereof, we are at a much lower risk than the residents of New York state, where there is an average of 421 people per square mile and over 28,000 in NYC. In addition, new data has revealed that ventilation may not even the best practice as ventilation has its own risks. I find it odd that when the number of needed ventilators was in question, the state of North Dakota appeared to do nothing to acquire more. Rather the onus for saving lives was falsely placed on the untrained shoulders of our friends and family through the social distancing requests and orders from the North Dakota state officials.
We were told, implicitly, by you, that staying home saved lives. Yet even those 97.7% wrong models did not indicate a decrease of deaths due to coronavirus. Rather, the “flatten the curve” model, only spread the deaths out over a longer time frame. While I would never advocate for people to die, I also know that it does happen and I can do nothing to change that. In the entire United States of America respiratory disease and infection account for more than 7% of all deaths. As the COVID-19 has currently killed 0.0000069% of Americans, the overall effect is not different from any other year’s expectation of respiratory illness deaths.
The death toll for this virus is less than many deadly illnesses, accidents, and injuries. Notably, poverty (which is where your executive orders are leading us) has a greater deadly impact. Coronary heart disease claims over 700 ND residents each year. Car accidents cause over 100 deaths each year. The negative effect of having a virus with a 98.5% survival rate is even less than alcoholism. After being ranked the drunkest state in the nation by Wall Street in 2019, it would make more sense for North Dakotans to work toward preventing alcohol sales.
Due to the government restrictions meant to control a natural biological entity that outnumbers every other living thing on earth, ND has the 9th highest unemployment increase in the nation, 2,934%. Just one year ago, North Dakota was nationally recognized for having the lowest unemployment rate at just 2.4%. In only the 4th month of 2020, we have 2.5 times the unemployment cases of the entire year of 2019. Some of the jobs lost are oil related. Returning North Dakota to normal activities would increase the amount of oil used locally, and lead the way for others to do the same nationally. The state oil economy is dependent upon standard cultural movement. In fact about 50% of the North Dakota state budget, providing for the needs of all of our citizens, is dependent on people leaving their homes for work, school and commerce.
Small town ND banks created millions in loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, and it’s not enough. Just like the stimulus check from The CARES act, the loans are often not enough to cover one month of lost income, let alone many multiple months as you continue to extend the deadlines of your executive orders. North Dakotans are fiercely independent, and a primary focus of our lives is to support ourselves and our families. We have long been the state where people work. The drastic change to vast unemployment goes against all that we are, all that we were raised to be, and all that our ancestors were. Christie Obenauer, CEO of Union State Bank of Hazen stated that this was like “flying a plane while it’s being built.” When flying a plane, it’s important to realize when you are about to crash. The economy of our state is headed for the ground, Governor Burgum. We ask that you recognize this and change course.
It’s not just our economy that needs you. North Dakota has more than 5,000 reported incidents of domestic violence effecting more than 4,000 children every year. Around 25% of ND adults experience domestic violence, meaning approximately 190,000 residents maybe be essentially quarantined with their abuser. It should be no surprise that domestic violence is on the rise all across the nation, including within ND. Do the lives of these people matter less? Child abuse is also on the rise. 40-50% of people who abuse their significant other, also abuse their children. Children especially, are also stuck at home, with their abuser. Mandatory reporters like teachers and youth pastors are no longer a concern for abusive parents. Even stepping out into the yard is met with social shaming because we’ve been told that staying home saves lives. What happens when staying home literally costs lives? Are we not supposed to care because they haven’t tested positive for COVID-19? Is the mere possibility of contracting a virus more important that the abuse of thousands of North Dakota’s children? I’m not suggesting that these needs are easy to balance, but I would hope that most North Dakota adults would choose the safety of a child over possibly getting a virus.
Just as North Dakota’s population of 762,062 is exceedingly different from New York City’s population of 8,398,748, so are our small towns with populations from 9 to 5,000 exceedingly different from Fargo’s population of 124,844 or Grand Forks population of 52,838. One thing all locations will have in common is the loss of small businesses that cannot function without paying customers. The difference though, is that if Cando loses its grocery store, there’s not another one. If the residents of Hatton lose their gas station, they will be forced to go to Grand Forks or Mayville for gas, both a 30-minute drive one way. If Mayville loses its optometrist or Hillsboro loses its dentist, again, the residents of those towns will be forced to make long drives. They will spend less in their town, which will cause another loss, in local tax dollars. Your executive orders put all of North Dakota’s small towns at risk of actual failure and closure. Without services, how can the residents stay on their family farmsteads? How will it impact our state economy or our national economy if ND farmland is shuttered?
One thing that we all know for certain is that there will come a time when we as a whole nation cease the panic over coronavirus. We will strive to return to the normal we once knew. You, Governor Burgum are our elected leader. You and your actions will guide us out of lives based on fear. Governor Burgum, I implore you to lead us. Yet, please lead us in saving our state before it is reduced to proverbial ashes. Please don’t lead us simply by following states that are NOTHING like us. Please, Doug Burgum lead North Dakota in bravery, in strength and in hard work. Please end the shut downs immediately. Demonstrate for the nation and the world what leadership in the face of fear and adversity looks like. If you don’t, you can be certain that another governor will. Certainly the South Dakota or Texas governors will find enough courage to lead instead of follow. We only ask that you unite us in moving forward. We are not New Jersey or even Minnesota. We are North Dakota strong and North Dakota smart. Show us that we are also North Dakota brave.
Tricia Knutson graduated from UND with a BS in Geology and a BA in Mass Communications. She’s worked as a 911 operator, Art History adjunct, and Geologist. For the last 10 years, she’s been a stay-at-home mom and homeschools her four wonderful children.
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