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First COVID-19 death reported in ND

A man in his 90s from Cass County is the first person in North Dakota to die from the coronavirus, the North Dakota Health Department stated on Friday.

Gov. Doug Burgum expressed condolences to the man’s family during his daily briefing on Friday afternoon and said it is a reminder to everyone in the state to exercise their personal responsibility to help slow the spread of the virus.

The man in his 90s had underlying health conditions and likely contracted the virus from someone in the community.

An additional 10 people tested positive for the virus across the state on Friday, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 68. Sixteen of those people have been hospitalized. Fifteen people are considered to have recovered from the illness.

Burgum said it is likely that the actual number of coronavirus cases in the state is at least 10 times the official count. Some people have mild or no symptoms and are not tested and others only get tested after they have developed symptoms serious enough for them to seek medical care. It can take up to two weeks for someone to develop symptoms of the illness and, during that time, an infected person can spread the disease within the community.

Burgum also said the state continues to work on a plan for expanding medical capacity in the state so it will be able to provide intensive care for people who may need it. That would include opening new facilities, perhaps in former medical facilities that had previously been closed, and seeking out additional personal protective gear for medical providers and equipment such as ventilators. Elective surgeries have been canceled or postponed at facilities across the state, which also will free up hospital beds.

Burgum also issued an executive order on Friday ordering hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, massage parlors, and other personal care providers to close. Many such businesses had already closed due to the coronavirus.

He also issued another order giving employers the option of deferring payment of unemployment taxes for the first quarter of the year. More information is available at jobsnd.com or workforcesafety.com

However, Burgum said he has no current plans to lock down the state or close borders with other states, contrary to rumors that have been flying on social media. He said he hopes citizens of the state will exercise “personal responsibility” and follow recommendations and will respond better to that message than a mandate.

He said there are also no plans to shut down next week’s fishing opener or to restrict fishing or hunting licenses for out of state residents. The Game and Fish Department would be able to post signs and shut down areas that appear crowded, but Burgum said it is entirely possible to go fishing in this state and maintain a six-foot distance from other people who are fishing.

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