Gov. Doug Burgum today accepted the resignation of Interim State Health Officer Dr. Paul Mariani, thanking him for his leadership of the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDOH) and appointing NDDOH Chief of Staff Dirk Wilke to fill the role until a replacement can be named.

“While Dr. Mariani’s tenure was short, we are grateful for his service and for jumping into the many complexities of this extremely challenging role – including connecting directly with parents, school superintendents, mayors and local public health officials – at a time when our state is facing rising and record COVID-19 cases. We are saddened to see him leave and appreciate his meaningful contributions. Paul is a man of high intelligence and integrity. We agreed that the amended close contact order’s penalty provisions – a misdemeanor as required by current state law – became a large and unforeseen distraction to our mission of slowing the spread of the coronavirus in our state.”

“While the governor and I agreed on the urgent need to isolate positives and quarantine close contacts in accordance with CDC guidelines, and that the amended order’s penalty provision was overly punitive, the circumstances around the handling of the order made my position untenable,” Dr. Mariani said. “I want to thank the Governor for his understanding and for the outstanding team at the North Dakota Department of Health for their professionalism and dedication to the health and safety of North Dakota citizens.”