- Associated Press - Thursday, March 19, 2020

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Thursday he’ll be keeping people out of bars, restaurants, health clubs, movie theaters and other large-scale venues, although he will allow offsite food and beverage service and encouraged other businesses to find new ways to serve customers during the coronavirus crisis.

Burgum is also keeping K-12 schools closed until further notice so districts can map out plans to resume classes remotely. In the meantime, Burgum will issue a 12-day waiver to a state law in order to pay teachers, administrators, staffs and bus drivers during the shutdown.

That move will cost the “supportive and generous” taxpayers $96 million to close the schools, Burgum said.

Burgum’s executive order with numerous directives came after the state Department of Health reported 12 additional cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, raising the total number of cases to 19. One person has been hospitalized.

Burgum said restaurants, bars and breweries will still be allowed to sell food through take-out, delivery, curbside and drive-thru methods, That order will go into effect at noon Friday. Recreational and entertainment facilities will be closed unless they can find alternative business models, the governor said.

“We know this is going to require a change for a lot of people,” Burgum said.

Burgum lauded several business owners for shutting down on their own and singled out dentists in the state for limiting their work to emergencies only.

The order also limits public access to state facilities, including the state Capitol, until April 6. Government employees will be conducting their business remotely, he said.

“We are restricting access to buildings, but we are keeping government going,” Burgum said. “That’s an important distinction.”

Because of the swab shortage, the health department is recommending that health care providers focus on patients hospitalized with respiratory illness, those living or working in congregate settings and health care workers.

People who think they may have COVID-19 but have minor symptoms should self-isolate at home, officials said. Individuals seeking medical attention should call before they go in.

There have been 673 people tested in more than 30 counties North Dakota, with 19 testing positive and 654 testing negative. More than 500 tests should be processed in the next 24 hours, Burgum said.

The virus forced the cancellation of an annual four-day fair in North Dakota that bills itself as the largest Scandinavian festival in North America, six months ahead of its scheduled date. The Norsk Hostfest had taken place every September in Minot for 42 straight years, attracting about 60,000 visitors annually and more than 100 vendors from around the world.

Organizers said in a letter to the Minot Daily News that the festival is unable to fully staff and execute sales efforts at this time.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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