REGINA -- Saskatchewan officials are keeping an eye on happenings south of the border. Not just on the transfer of power from former president Donald Trump to President Joe Biden, but also North Dakota’s apparent success in overcoming the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the province’s COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said he has been in contact with North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum about the struggles their respective jurisdictions have faced.

“I've talked to Governor Burgum a number of times throughout this pandemic, with respect to some of the challenges that we've seen on north end and south of the border,” Moe said. “Their numbers have come down markedly, and that is through people doing the right thing and taking their individual responsibility very, very seriously.”

The Republican governor allowed the state’s mask mandate to expire on Monday and loosened restrictions for restaurant as COVID-19 numbers trend downwards.

Though masks are no longer mandatory statewide, local jurisdictions can still impose face coverings. Fargo, Minot and Grand Forks are among cities that have extended the mask mandate.


North Dakota and Saskatchewan confirmed their first cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours of each other – on Mar. 11 and 12 respectively.

North Dakota has a population of about 762,000 compared to Saskatchewan’s 1.2 million. However, the border state was hit exceptionally harder during the second wave of the pandemic.

There have been 1,387 COVID-19 related deaths in North Dakota and 92,275 total cases of the virus, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, while Saskatchewan has seen 226 deaths and 21,112 total cases.

North Dakota once led the United States in daily new COVID-19 cases per capita. The virus peaked on Nov. 13, when there were 10,198 active cases in the state.

The governor swiftly introduced a statewide mask mandate, new restrictions for restaurants – limiting restaurant capacity to 50 per cent and forcing them closed to in-person service at 10 p.m. – and put a pause on school sports and activities.

New infections dropped steadily throughout December, and have continued to decrease into the new year.

On Jan. 19, North Dakota’s seven-day average of new daily cases was 160, while Saskatchewan’s was 300.

According to a press release from Governor Burgum’s office, since the November restrictions were implemented, active cases have dropped by over 80 per cent, COVID-19 hospitalizations have decreased by nearly 74 per cent, and North Dakota’s seven-day positivity rate is now the fourth-lowest rate in the U.S.

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer said the state is an example of how things can change very quickly when people comply with public health measures.

“I think that's the main lesson from North Dakota", Dr. Saqib Shahab said on Tuesday. “But we've also seen that in Saskatchewan – and in our neighboring provinces – high compliance through public health measures, compliance by all of us, dramatically changes the course of the pandemic,”