North Dakota was not aware of the global pandemic until late summer. News was trickling in but the ranchers had more important things to do during the calving season (calves are baby cows). It had been a particularly harsh winter and the womenfolk were up to their holster belts in snow trying to locate the cattle and steers that needed help. The menfolk were oiling their saddles.
The first news of the pandemic would have arrived by telegraph but the winter storms knocked out the main telegraph line from Minneapolis to Fargo. When the Morse code operators on the East Coast first noted their "pinging" was not being answered, they asked President Trump if he would authorize the Pony Express to ride out to Bismarck to see what might be going on.
Unbeknownst to the state governor, the Sioux were delaying travel on the main highway leading into Bismarck. No explanation was ever given by the Sioux except something to do with "sacred land." Once that was sorted out, a Mr John Steeplechase (probably an alias) arrived in Bismarck on Trigger (probably another alias). Mr Steeplechase said he was from the "Pony Express" and was there to help. He further said, if that wasn't clear enough, that he was representing the commander-in-chief who wanted to know what was going on with the telegraph operators. The president was mostly concerned his tweets were not getting through.
The governor sent out his own representatives and that's when they noted the downed telegraph lines. Mr Steeplechase was directed to return to Minneapolis, where he was to immediately telegraph the president (the state governor was unaware that President Grant was no longer in office), and ask for federal assistance in getting the telegraph poles repaired.
The state governor also wanted Mr Steeplechase to ask the president for authorization to send out the 7th Cavalry to check up on the Sioux who seemed to be moving westward to Dickinson. They were most likely headed to Sturgis for the rally.
Some months later it was determined that the coronavirus had not reached North Dakota until Mr Steeplechase arrived in May. It was later learned that Mr Steeplechase was a super-spreader and thus the need for an alias.
But that's getting ahead of the story. The 7th Cavalry headed west, intercepting the Sioux just west of Mandan. It was late May but the snow was still very, very deep, slowing their progress. The Indians riding Indian motorcycles were stuck in the snow-filled ditches.
Fortunately the telegraph lines were operational west of Bismarck and Cpl Smith of the 7th Cavalry telegraphed his superiors at Fort Lincoln near Bismarck.
The 7th Cavalry was directed to proceed west for 137 miles at which point they would turn north towards Killdeer but to avoid contact with any Indians pending further instructions, and to definitely not even think about laying any pipelines. They were also to provide updates on the casinos.
In June, the snow-dusted blue coats made it to Killdeer. It was there that they first learned of a "wirus" east of Bismarck. Cpl Smith, not the sharpest bayonet in the drawer, thought they telegraphed "wire us" which, of course made no sense, because he was already wiring (slang for "telegraphing") Fort Lincoln.
Coincidentally, while the 7th Cavalry was in Killdeer, a wagon train of Mormons showed up. They were headed to Salt Lake City but had become lost due to the wagon master being Amish and, as such, refused to use modern reckoning tools such as a compass or, heaven forbid (and it did), a smart phone.
The wagon train wagon master had met Mr Steeplechase on the latter's ride back to Minneapolis about two weeks earlier. The quartermaster said that most of the travelers had come down with a strange "cold," but it made his job a whole easier. Because most of those that became ill had also lost their sense of smell, no one really complained about the taste (or lack thereof) of the food. The "cold" was a minor irritant for most of those who caught it, though a Mr. Joshua Brown, 83 years old with known history of heart and lung disease, had died after he was forced to return to his wagon. Some of the youngsters mistakenly thought he had hoof and mouth disease. Two of his wives knew otherwise. This "wirus" was nothing to take lightly.
In July, the first wagon train with "wirus" testing kits was dispatched from Minneapolis. By then, the number of "cold" cases were increasing exponentially, but again, without the "test kits" no one could tell for sure the nature of their malady.
The first wagon train carrying the "wirus test kits" became lost in the freak snowstorm of July 7 - 9. The 7th Cavalry was dispatched to search for that wagon train but were impeded by the million-head-herd of American bison (incorrectly called "buffalo" by the Washington Post) on the only open road between Killdeer and Bismarck in an attempt to get "above" the snow. The train master of that wagon train had discussed with Mr Steeplechase before he left Minneapolis the conditions in North Dakota. Mr Steeplechase was a bit "under the weather" and the train master, a Mr Bill Schuster, never had a clear idea of where he was going, much less what he was doing. He was a registered Democrat.
The second wagon train was immediately dispatched upon the request of Cpl Smith who had now been elevated to a brevet colonel due to the fact that the rest of his detachment had come down with a serious cough and fever shortly after meeting that Mormon wagon train who had passed Mr Steeplechase some weeks earlier.
Suffice it to say, by early August, the state had received more than enough "wirus testing kits" to test everyone in the state six times. The Norwegians and the Germans said, "no way, Jose, are we going to be tested." Jose Garcia was the state's health director.
The governor, never one to let a crisis go to waste, immediately ordered that all Indians be tested. And that's when the buffalo chips hit the fan. The number of cases of "wirus" spiked, the newspapers back east got wind of the story, and started reporting that North Dakota was now a hot spot for something called "Covid-19." The governors of New York and New Jersey immediately banned travelers from North and South Dakota from visiting their states, despite the fact that to the best of their knowledge, no one from North Dakota or South Dakota had ever traveled east of the Mississippi. Those who attempted to go east, saw Minneapolis, didn't like what they saw, and returned home.
President Trump had planned to fly out to survey the situation but the helipads were covered with snow, best measured in feet.
Interestingly, almost no one was dying of this strange disease in North Dakota or South Dakota, mostly because almost no one had "an underlying condition." But there were a lot of positive cases. It turns out that a lot of folks were getting tested two, three, and even four times over. The governor, to encourage volunteer testing, promised free beer to the first 640,000 residents who came out to be tested. The 230,000 under-age residents gave their "tickets" to those over 21 and thus many folks were tested two, three, and four times over.
The overall rate of "wirus" in North Dakota appears to be no worse, no better than any other state (except perhaps for New York and New Jersey) but the the majority of testing was done in a two-week period following the governor's beer incentive, which explains the surge. The Norwegians and the Germans now refer to it as the "Swedish surge." The state's attorney general considers such joking to be a "hate" crime and says he will convene a committee to investigate.
The east coast newspapers, of course, are yet to report this, and so, it's being reported that North Dakota is a hot spot for the "wirus."
Brevet Colonel Smith is running for state attorney general. Of New York.
The Amish wagon master opened a furniture store on the corner of 1st Avenue East and Broadway in Williston, ND.
Mr Bill Schuster, wagon master of the first wagon train, opened a Chevy dealership in Bismarck.
The quartermaster of the first wagon train opened a McDonald's franchise having lost his own sense of smell (and taste).
Mr Steeplechase came down with a severe case of the "wirus" and was hospitalized in Minneapolis for three weeks. He recovered and has been named the state's deputy assistant for health affairs, pandemic division.