A North Dakota community’s struggle with COVID

In mid-October, North Dakota had more new COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other U.S. state, and Ward County had the highest rate of new cases of all the state’s counties. But residents of Minot, a city in Ward County, were sharply divided about how to deal with the crisis, according to a New Yorker article by Atul Gawande of Harvard T.H. Chan of Public Health.

In the February 8, 2021, article, Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and management, surgeon, and co-founder of Ariadne Labs, described the struggle in Minot about mandating face masks. Some in the community felt that masks were essential to stop the spread of the pandemic. But others were uncomfortable telling other people what to do, and felt that the fear instilled by COVID-19 precautions such as face masks was harming life in other ways—by leading to outcomes such as economic damage, loss of in-person schooling, and increasing mental health issues. The city established a mask mandate for three months but later dropped it.

Gawande was also featured on CBS News on February 7 discussing his role helping arrange to open a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., home of the New England Patriots.

In addition, Gawande co-authored a February 5, 2021, op-ed in the Washington Post with several fellow former members of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, which recently disbanded. The article argued that, beyond vaccines, a three-pronged response is needed to manage current and future coronavirus variants. The article called for substantially more genomic surveillance, the development of vaccines that can immunize against more than one strain of the disease, and greater focus on developing COVID-19 treatments.

Read the New Yorker article: Inside the Worst-Hit County in the Worst-Hit State in the Worst-Hit Country

Watch the CBS interview: Mass vaccinations: How stadiums host a COVID defensive play

Read the Washington Post op-ed: Vaccines alone won’t solve the pandemic. Here are 3 other things we must do.