BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum last Wednesday extended an order to keep most businesses closed until at least the end of the month in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Governor extends order restricting businesses until April 30
Earlier in the day, a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Grand Forks suspended operations and said it would arrange for hundreds of employees and their immediate family to be tested for the coronavirus due to an outbreak at the facility.
“We are not far enough down the track to safely lift business closures at this time,” Burgum said during a briefing at the state Capitol in Bismarck. “This is not lives versus the economy. This is about lives and lives.”
Burgum said LM Wind Power told him eight employees have tested positive at the turbine plant that employs about 900 people.
Grand Forks Public Health Director Deborah Swanson said the North Dakota National Guard would operate a drive-thru testing site starting Thursday. The state will test about 350 people connected to the LM Wind Power facility, but does not have the capacity to test the plant's entire workforce, Swanson said.
The state has tested a total of 11,317 people across the state.
LM Wind Power spokesman Tim Brown said the company has temporarily halted production to disinfect and clean the facility, and that it was providing employees with personal protective equipment.
The company's parent announced Tuesday that it was closing a turbine manufacturing plant in Arkansas due to a decline in demand.
Earlier this month, Burgum ordered all bars, restaurants, barber shops, beauty salons, health clubs, movie theaters and other large-scale venues to close at least until April 20, while still allowing offsite food and beverage service. He also ordered K-12 schools closed until further notice. He has not issued a general stay-at-home order as have been imposed in other states.
Burgum said Wednesday he decided to extend the closure of businesses until April 30 after consultation with lawmakers, and state and local officials. Nonetheless, he has come under pressure to lift the order.
“It is imperative North Dakota businesses be allowed to open their doors while encouraging them to implement safeguards to protect their employees, customers and themselves,” according to a letter dated Tuesday from 13 ultraconservative House members and a GOP senator. “Failure to do so will likely result in many more businesses closer their doors and losing their jobs.”
Also Wednesday, the Department of Health announced the state’s largest single day jump in the number of people infected with COVID-19 — 24 — taking the total to 365.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Cass County leads the state with 135 cases, followed by Burleigh County with 52. Cass is the state’s most populous county and includes the Fargo-West Fargo metropolitan area. Burleigh County includes Bismarck.
Twenty cases have been reported in Grand Forks County.
The demographic hit hardest by the virus is people aged 30 to 39 years. The state says 190 of people who tested positive are female and 175 are male.
No new coronavirus deaths were reported Wednesday. There have been nine deaths since the pandemic began.