North Dakota coronavirus news, March 23: Caution urged for ag sales

North Dakota coronavirus news, March 23: Caution urged for ag sales

From the North Dakota coronavirus news series
Coronavirus need to know

The latest North Dakota coronavirus news: cattle auctions, gas prices, rest areas, Development Fund, Prairie Knights and more.

Caution urged for ag sales

State Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is urging precautions for agriculture auction sales and livestock markets.

There are more than 100 such sales scheduled over the next two months, according to the state agriculture department.

“We understand the need but ask that certain precautions are taken to mitigate the risk,” Goehring said in a statement.

Many auction companies and livestock markets are limiting attendance to only bidders and buyers. Where possible, they will offer online bidding and viewing of the sale. People are encouraged to limit contact and maintain distance between those attending auctions.

“A positive is that most ag auction sales happen outside, and many livestock auction markets offer an option to view the sale remotely. With a few adjustments, auctions can continue with the essential role they play in agriculture,” Goehring said. “We strongly urge those not feeling well, nonessential and at-risk people to avoid auctions. If your attendance is essential, respect social distancing and practice good hygiene.”

Gasoline falls to $1.96 

Gasoline prices continue to drop in North Dakota, which had a statewide average of $1.96 per gallon Monday.

North Dakota is one of 21 states with an average price per gallon below $2, according to AAA. Falling prices at the pump are the result of low oil prices, which plummeted this month due to a drop in global oil demand as the new coronavirus curtails travel. Furthermore, Russia and Saudi Arabia, two of the world’s biggest oil producers, have launched a price war that’s further put pressure on prices.

Two-thirds of the 53 counties in North Dakota have an average gas price below $2, AAA said. The last time gas was this cheap in the state was in March 2016, shortly after oil prices hit rock bottom following a price collapse.

Prairie Knights Casino to close

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the management of Prairie Knights Casino and Resort near Fort Yates have decided to temporarily close the business.

The casino, lodge, pavilion event center and all restaurants will shut down effective Tuesday. The Quik Mart convenience store will remain open.

Gov. Doug Burgum last week had urged tribal governments to follow his lead and order eating and drinking establishments, as well as recreation and entertainment businesses, to close on-site services to try to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Burgum on Sunday said all tribal casinos in North Dakota are or will be closing.

Rest areas reopen

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is reopening rest areas across the state.

Crews have completed deep cleaning and repairs. Burgum said last week that repairs were made necessary by vandals using crowbars to try to access storage areas so they could steal toilet paper.

More information can be found at www.dot.nd.gov or by calling 855-NDROADS (637-6237).

Development Fund suspends payments

The North Dakota Development Fund Board recently voted to suspend all payments for both principal and interest on all Development Fund loans.

The move took effect Thursday and is in place for 30 days, according to the state Department of Commerce.

The Development Fund offers financing options for new or expanding primary sector businesses in North Dakota. 

“Suspending payments is a step we can take to support our existing businesses, and ensure our local economy is able to remain resilient during this uncertain time,” said Josh Teigen, head of investments and innovation at Commerce.

US attorneys fight fraud

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus fraud schemes, according to Drew Wrigley, U.S. attorney for North Dakota.

“We will be relentless,” Wrigley said.

Members of the public can report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or emailing disaster@leo.gov.

Examples of schemes are fake cures, phishing emails from scam artists posing as the World Health Organization or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malicious websites and fraudulent charitable organizations.

U.S. attorneys also have been directed to appoint a coronavirus fraud coordinator. Wrigley has named Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Greenley, an experienced health care fraud and white collar crime prosecutor.

More information can be found at: www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Walmart hiring workers

Walmart plans to hire more than 500 workers in North Dakota.

The hiring is part of a push by Walmart to hire 150,000 new workers nationally through the end of May for its stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers.

The positions are temporary, but some could convert to permanent positions over time, the company said.

Walmart is reaching out to groups representing the restaurant and hospitality industries, whose workers have been impacted by shutdowns.

North Dakota virus numbers

North Dakota has 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19: 17 in Burleigh County, seven in Morton County, three in Ward County, two in Pierce County, and one each in Cass County, Ramsey County and Walsh County. Four people have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths. State and private labs have conducted 1,440 total tests, with 1,408 coming back negative.

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