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State offices to reopen June 1

State offices will reopen to the public on June 1, Gov. Doug Burgum announced during his regular briefing on Friday.

Burgum said the offices will operate at 50 percent capacity to begin with and tele-work will be encouraged going forward for state employees. State offices will follow guidelines for reopening to protect staff and visitors from contracting and spreading the new coronavirus.

Burgum said he would still encourage people who are elderly or have an underlying health condition to consider doing their business with the state over the phone or online to keep themselves safe.

Burgum also said he would amend an executive order so “North Dakota Smart Restart” guidelines for businesses are strong suggestions, not enforceable rules. Individual business owners will be able to decide for themselves what steps they should take to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus. But Burgum added the caveat that the state health department still has the power to require a business to close if it presents a threat to public health.

Burgum also urged individuals to continue to exercise personal responsibility and follow Center for Disease Control guidelines on personal hygiene and social distancing over the Memorial Day weekend. As businesses reopen and people get out and about again, there will be more opportunities for the virus to be spread from person to person, said Burgum, and it is possible that the state will see an increase in positive test results. Masks are not required in the state but are encouraged.

The state saw an increase in case numbers due to targeted testing in different locations, including in Minot.

As of Thursday, there were 90 additional positive cases out of 2,477 tests conducted. There have now been 2,317 positive cases in the state.

Fifty-two people have died. Gov. Burgum announced that flags on state buildings will be flown at half staff this weekend in memory of all the people who have died of the coronavirus.

Thirty-nine people are currently hospitalized. Fourteen of those are in intensive care. Burgum said that ICU care for coronavirus patients represents only about 2 percent of total hospital capacity and Jennifer Wiechmann, Ward County emergency manager, said in a press release that there will be a follow-up mass testing event for the Ward County Sheriff’s Office and the Ward County Detention Center, tentatively scheduled for May 29. All staff and inmates will be tested.

The last testing event this week turned up three positive test results in the Sheriff’s Office, with 18 people testing negative.

There were six positive test results in the Ward County Detention Center and 39 negative test results.

As of Friday, 54 people in Ward County had tested positive for the virus; 21 have recovered and one has died, according to the state health department.

The Ward County Commission decided to postpone the reopening of the Ward County Administration building until further notice.

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