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North Dakota Capitol, other state facilities to reopen June 1

North Dakota Capitol, other state facilities to reopen June 1

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Some state employees will return to their normal workplaces on June 1, Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday.

State facilities have been closed since mid-March, forcing 7,000 state employees to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting in June, state facilities will reopen with no more than 50% of their capacities filled. Workers and members of the public can expect to be screened for COVID-19 upon entering, Burgum said, adding that Capitol workers will likely have staggered start times to alleviate a crowd of people in the lobby. Tours of the state Capitol will remain suspended, and the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum will stay closed.

Some state employees will continue to work remotely in coordination with their supervisors.

The governor is further lifting remaining restrictions on restaurants, salons, athletic facilities, movie theaters, recreational and sports facilities, and other businesses via a new executive order. The new order directs those businesses to follow North Dakota “Smart Restart” guidelines that include measures for social distancing and sanitation to prevent the virus from spreading, but the government will no longer enforce previous restrictions or issue penalties to violators.

“We strongly encourage you to adopt and rigorously follow the guidelines,” Burgum said. “Ultimately, businesses that are going to survive and thrive are those that are going to restore consumer confidence through their actions and their attention to customer needs, especially when it comes to customers feeling comfortable.”

Burgum said the state health officer still has authority to close businesses that pose health risks to the public.

“We will, to protect public safety, take actions as needed to make sure that we’re ensuring public health,” he said.

While news reports over the past few months detailed a few instances when businesses were cited for violating restrictions on their operations, Burgum said the state does not have a tally of how widespread compliance was across North Dakota.

“By and large, we felt we had, as a state, really high compliance around those guidelines and procedures,” he said.

Burgum on Friday directed that flags be flown at half-staff through sunset on Sunday to honor coronavirus victims.

The directive comes as the state on Friday announced the 52nd person to die with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The latest death was a Cass County man in his 80s with underlying health conditions.

The North Dakota Department of Health describes the death toll this way: 38 deaths due to COVID-19, six deaths where the disease was not the primary cause, and eight deaths where an official death record has not yet been filed.

The governor is encouraging North Dakotans with flags at their homes or businesses to fly them at half-staff, as will happen at state facilities. The declaration coincides with a proclamation by President Donald Trump.

“Kathryn and I extend our deepest condolences to every North Dakota family and community grieving the loss of a loved one in this global pandemic,” Burgum said in a statement. “This weekend, we remember and honor those we have lost to COVID-19, and we reaffirm our commitment to a Start Resmart that protects the lives and livelihoods of all North Dakotans while emphasizing personal responsibility and caring for our fellow citizens.”

The state reported 90 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, 74 of which are in the hot spot of Cass County, home to Fargo. Burleigh County has another two cases. Eddy County, meanwhile, has six new cases and Williams County has three. Emmons, Grand Forks, Griggs, Richland and Ward counties have one new case apiece. The state has confirmed a total of 2,317 cases since the pandemic began. Of those, 860 remain active.

Friday’s test results come from a batch of 2,477 tests processed Thursday. Of those, 1,551 tests were administered to new individuals. Statewide, 77,447 tests have been processed this spring.

Thirty-nine people are hospitalized with COVID-19. Another 65 people have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,405.

Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.

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