BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum for the second consecutive day Thursday expressed frustration over reports that some residents aren’t taking social distancing seriously as as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to rise.
Some are “taking this serious and some not,” said Burgum, who is one of only about 10 governors nationwide that haven’t declared statewide shelter-in-place orders.
North Dakota health officials on Thursday confirmed 12 more cases of the coronavirus, three weeks after the state's first positive test of COVID-19. The North Dakota Health Department reported a total of 159 cases in the state.
North Dakota has reported three deaths, though none on Thursday. All victims were elderly and had underlying health conditions.
Burgum has ordered all bars, restaurants, barber shops, beauty salons. health clubs, movie theaters and other large-scale venues to close to patrons at least until April 20, while still allowing offsite food and beverage service. He is also keeping K-12 schools closed until further notice.
Similar restrictions had commonly been in place in states that have issued stay-at-home orders.
Though Burgum has so far has refrained from declaring a stay-at-home order, he urged residents to “acknowledge and understand the orders we’ve put in place.”
“Stay home, stay healthy and stay connected,” he said.
Burgum applauded a move by the largest provider of health insurance in North Dakota that announced Thursday that it will waive out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota insures or administers claims for about 375,000 people, or roughly half of the state’s population.
“This is a big deal,” Burgum said, adding that he hoped other health insurance providers would do the same.
Blues said the costs related to the coronavirus will be waived through May 31 for members on group and individual plans.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, the state’s top law enforcement officer, warned people to exercise caution on about phone calls and emails related to the coronavirus.
Scammers “see this pandemic as an opportunity to make a buck,” Stenehjem said. Several North Dakotans already have lost “thousands and thousands of dollars.”
“We can’t get the money back,” Stenehjem said. “The only thing we can do is get the message out.”
On Thursday, the Highway Patrol, which provides security for the governor and the state Capitol, began screening visitors and employees who work in the building with temperature scanning. The tests are administered by aiming a laser thermometer into people’s mouths from several feet away.
People with a high fever aren’t allowed to enter.
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, and death.