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Counties can hold June election via mail-in ballots only

Gov. Doug Burgum issued an executive order Thursday that will enable counties to conduct the June 9 election by mail-in ballot only if they choose to do so. The order eliminates a requirement that counties maintain a physical polling location.

Burgum announced at his daily briefing that the order is intended to protect the right of North Dakotans to vote and also to protect polling workers and voters from coronavirus if the pandemic is still a concern come June.

Burgum also announced guidance that is intended to shore up child care providers in the state.

Child care providers will be required to take extra steps to protect against the spread of the virus, such as making sure that there are no more than 10 people, including both adults and children, in a room at one time and staggering use of common areas to keep too many people from being in an area at once. Providers would also be required to limit access to the facility as much as possible and ask families questions about how they are feeling before a child is able to come into the facility.

Providers can also apply for an emergency operating grant. Those who accept the grant must prioritize children of health, safety or lifeline workers and cap at $50 per month the fee they would typically charge families to hold a spot if the child is gone from daycare for an extended period. More information is available on the North Dakota Department of Human Services website at nd.gov

Burgum said school districts are encouraged to open child care for kids in grades K-5 in school buildings, following guidelines, and to have children cared for by ancillary staff who have already undergone background checks. He amended his executive order closing schools to all but personnel. Burgum said Bismarck is already considering this.

As of Thursday afternoon, Burgum said the North Dakota Health Department had identified an additional 13 cases of the new coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 58. Eleven of those people have been hospitalized.

At the national level, there are over 80,000 cases of the virus that have been identified and more than 1,000 deaths. Burgum said other states have been dealing with shortages of supplies and medical personnel to treat coronavirus victims. He said North Dakota continues to work to ensure it will have what is needed to care for the seriously ill if the pandemic worsens here as well. North Dakota is behind other states in the spread of the virus but Burgum said it is likely that all of the counties in the state will soon have positive cases of coronavirus.

Burgum continued to urge people to stay home if they are sick or if they have had contact with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus and encouraged people to self isolate for two weeks if they have returned to the state from a location that has a large number of coronavirus cases. People who believe they have symptoms should contact their health care provider for advice and should not just walk into a hospital or clinic and risk exposing others. People should also practice good hygiene, such as washing their hands frequently, and avoid standing closer than 6 feet to another person in public.

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