Governor Burgum raises down on bars, restaurants in North Dakota, but occupancy remains

BISMARCK – North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has put an end to mandatory bar and restaurant shutdowns, citing a decline in active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state.

The announcement, which came late Monday evening, December 21, means that food and beverage units will no longer have to close for on-site services between 10pm and 4am, starting on Tuesday.

However, bars and restaurants must continue to limit the customers they serve to 50% of normal occupancy, while keeping six meters between meals. The dance floors must remain closed, and the service can be provided only to those seated.

Burgum ordered restrictions on public affairs on 13 November and extended the measures on 9 December. The Republican governor said the restrictions were implemented to remove some pressure on overwhelmed hospitals. Its change of course comes on Monday, as COVID-19 infections fall to their lowest levels in September, and hospitals are starting to recover from the worst outbreak.

“With the efforts and personal responsibility of the North Dakotans, the combination of other mitigation measures we still have in place and the promise and expansion of vaccine implementation, rapid testing and therapy, we can allow restaurants and bars to resume normal operation and continue to protect the vulnerable, maintain the capacity of the hospital and keep students in the classroom, “Burgum said in a press release.

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While virus-related hospitalizations have declined, intensive care beds are still rare throughout the state due to high admissions of non-coronavirus. The governor urged North Dakotans to continue to wear masks, distance themselves socially, and abstain from large gatherings during the holiday season so that the state can avoid another increase in COVID-19 cases.

Capacity limits for bars, restaurants and event venues remain in place until January 8, and a state-wide masked mandate will remain on the books until at least January 18, Burgum announced earlier this month.