BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Tuesday, April 7, announced 12 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.
The total positive tests for the virus in North Dakota is up to 237, however the department lists 82 people as having recovered from the illness. There are currently 18 residents hospitalized with the illness and four people, all at least 70 years old, have died.
Five of the new cases Tuesday came from Cass County, which has by far the most positive tests of any county in the state. The county's total is now up to 70 — nearly 30% of the state's total.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis issued directives Tuesday urging residents in both cities to stay home to slow the spread of the illness. Mahoney later said the directive has teeth and could result in fines for people in public gatherings of 10 or more. Dardis said West Fargo's directive does not carry the force of law.
A total of 7,703 tests for the virus have been reported to the state, and 27 counties now have at least one known case of the illness, with the first confirmed case announced in rural Bowman County on Tuesday. However, Burgum has previously said that the cases are reported based on patients' mailing addresses rather than their actual location in the state, so it is unknown where infected patients are quarantining or seeking medical help.
Other new cases Tuesday came from Burleigh, McKenzie, Slope, Morton and Mountrail counties. Burgum said Monday that Mountrail County, which includes the most populous part of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, has become a "hotspot" for the illness, now with 20 cases.
The recent addition of Minnesota to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of states with widespread community transmission means people returning to North Dakota from Minnesota are now subject to an order that legally requires them to self-quarantine for 14 days, unless they fall under the broad definition of an "essential" worker.
However, Burgum and State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte said Tuesday afternoon an amendment to the quarantine order could be forthcoming to ensure that North Dakota and Minnesota residents could move more freely across the border to receive health care.
North Dakota is one of eight states, including South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, that has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order.
An online petition asking Burgum to order mandatory shelter-in-place has gained more than 4,500 signatures since it was created Friday, but it's unclear how many signers live in the state. A counter-petition urging Burgum to "keep North Dakota free" has gotten more than 1,700 online signatures since it was created Monday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has previously urged all governors to enact stay-at-home orders during the height of the outbreak, but on Monday he said the restrictions in Iowa and Nebraska are "functionally equivalent" to stay-at-home orders.
Burgum said he hoped Fauci's comments would "finally put to bed" public demand for such an order. He has repeatedly called on residents to look past labels and see how some of North Dakota's restrictions on businesses, schools and social gatherings are already tighter than several states with stay-at-home orders.
In a reference to hunting, Burgum said the state is "using a rifle instead of a shotgun" to approach the spread of COVID-19 by only taking extreme actions if and when they are deemed necessary.
Burgum also introduced a new iPhone application called Care 19 that tracks users' movements to public places, like grocery stores and takeout restaurants. In practical use, Burgum said the free app would allow users to more easily recall where they've been in case they come down with COVID-19 and need to trace everyone with whom they've had contact. The app does not collect personal data, according to its developer, Proud Crowd.
The Fargo-based company, which created the Bison Tracker for fans of North Dakota State University athletics, was paid no more than $500 by the state to create the app, Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.
Burgum also gave an update Tuesday on the rapidly climbing number of unemployment claims filed with Job Service North Dakota. More than 40,000 North Dakotans, or about 10% of the state's entire workforce, have filed claims with the agency since March 16. Burgum said that's about the same amount of claims the agency received in the two years prior to the outbreak.
The governor noted that 12,900 weekly unemployment payments were distributed Tuesday, but he said he did not know how many claims have been rejected.
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