As North Dakota businesses reopen, governor calls on public to do its part

As North Dakota businesses reopen, governor calls on public to do its part

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday stressed individual responsibility to help curb the ongoing spread of coronavirus as he prepared to reopen the state's economy, even as the number of cases continue to rise.

Most businesses that have been shuttered for weeks may reopen Friday morning, but it won't be like before, Burgum said. The Republican has eased restrictions that include limiting bars and restaurants to half capacity, requiring barbers and cosmetologists to wear masks and prohibiting some high-intensity fitness classes. Burgum said movie theaters also reopen if they do such things as limit seating and stagger start times.

"We want you to be super respectful for people working in those environments," Burgum said, including wearing masks if asked.

"It's important for customers to educate themselves and respect those business owners who are trying to get reopened under these still-difficult conditions," said Burgum, who called for a "giant dose of empathy, understanding, patience and I would even go as far as saying 'love.'"

Burgum has said the state's increased testing capacity, its low positive test rate for the coronavirus and the existing hospital bed capacity to handle patients were among the positive signs for reopening business. The plan's been dubbed "ND Smart Restart."

While most businesses may reopen with precautions, other large-scale venues and K-12 schools are closed until further notice, Burgum said.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol said it will increase patrols to catch intoxicated drivers after most restrictions are lifted on bars, restaurants and other businesses. Troopers said in a statement the increased patrols would run Friday through Sunday and are being done "to remove impaired drivers from the road."

The North Dakota Department of Health on Thursday said 34 more people tested positive for COVID-19 since Wednesday, bringing the state total to 1,067.

The new figures include 21 in Cass County, which includes Fargo. Cass County accounts for almost half of the state's confirmed cases.

Grand Forks County, where an outbreak led to the shutdown of a wind turbine plant, has 258 cases, including seven on Thursday.

The number of deaths remained at 19.

A record 30 people were hospitalized Thursday in North Dakota, up two from Wednesday. Health officials said 27,460 people have been tested for the coronavirus in North Dakota, including 1,924 since Wednesday.

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.

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