North Dakota coronavirus news, March 16: Williston Basin Petroleum Conference rescheduled

North Dakota coronavirus news, March 16: Williston Basin Petroleum Conference rescheduled

From the North Dakota coronavirus news series
Coronavirus need to know

The latest North Dakota coronavirus news: oil conference, court system, spelling bee, Capitol tours, Norsk Hostfest, circus and more.

Oil conference rescheduled

The 2020 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference has been rescheduled for Sept. 1-3.

The conference is held every year, alternating between Bismarck and Regina, Saskatchewan. This year's conference had been scheduled May 19-21 at the Bismarck Event Center. At least 2,500 people and 300 exhibitors were expected, and U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette was to speak.

The event was postponed in the wake of a recommendation Sunday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that events and gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

“We are still very excited to host the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference later this year,” Council President Ron Ness said. “We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our attendees, speakers, and exhibitors and will continue to monitor the situation and follow official guidance as we move forward with this new date.”

For more information go to or call 701-223-6380.

Court trials suspended

The North Dakota Supreme Court has suspended through April 24 both civil and criminal jury trials that are not already in progress.

Presiding judges still have the discretion to authorize criminal jury trials in unusual circumstances, in consultation with the chief justice.

Civil and criminal bench trials, or those conducted before a judge rather than a jury, are not suspended. However, presiding judges have the discretion to call them off.

Guardianship reviews are suspended until June 1. Existing guardianships are extended until further order of the Supreme Court.

Full details of the Supreme Court's state of emergency order can be found at:

State Capitol tours suspended

Tours of the North Dakota State Capitol are suspended for the rest of March, according to the state Office of Management and Budget.

“The decision was made to suspend tours of the North Dakota State Capitol out of an abundance of caution, and to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” the disease that results from infection, OMB Director Joe Morrissette said. “Tours are often booked by large groups, and we want to limit meetings and nonessential visits to the Capitol.” 

Morrissette added that although the Capitol remains open, the state is encouraging residents to conduct business online whenever possible.

People can stay up to date on Capitol changes at

Governor's Prayer Breakfast postponed

The North Dakota Governor's Prayer Breakfast set for Friday has been postponed.

Gov. Doug Burgum has requested events in North Dakota comply with CDC guidance regarding large gatherings.

The Prayer Breakfast will be rescheduled. Registrants will be notified when a new date is selected.

State Spelling Bee suspended

The State Spelling Bee scheduled for March 23 at the Ramkota in Bismarck is being suspended.

The North Dakota Association of County Superintendents said the decision is in line with the state High School Activities Association suspending all spring sports and activities.

Bismarck/Mandan parks facilities closed

All Bismarck and Mandan park district facilities are closed and their programs suspended.

In Bismarck, the shutdown is through Sunday; in Mandan, it's until further notice.

Norsk Hostfest suspends ticket sales

The Norsk Hostfest has suspended ticket sales.

The annual Scandinavian heritage festival is Sept. 30-Oct. 3 at the State Fairgrounds in Minot. Officials announced Sunday that ticket sales are suspended, with new on-sale dates to be announced later.

The Hostfest is billed as the largest Scandinavian heritage festival in North America. Each year it draws about 60,000 people for food, music and other entertainment. 

Native American community meal canceled

The Native American Development Center in Bismarck has closed until further notice, though it is continuing to see clients by appointment.

The center also has canceled a traditional community meal on March 27 that would have included a workshop to encourage Native Americans to participate in the census.

"Originally, we would have hosted a tribal community feed as that is part of our culture, it’s a cultural gathering, a way of coming together that we look forward to doing," said Lorraine Davis, the center's founder and CEO. "However, plans have changed, and we’ll be announcing our census outreach service to the community before the end of this week."

Board of Higher Ed committee postponed

The State Board of Higher Education nominating committee postponed a scheduled Monday meeting.

The group was to choose three finalists for a seat on the board that has been vacated by new federal judge Dan Traynor, and forward the recommendations to Gov. Doug Burgum, who will make the appointment. Fourteen people including four Bismarck residents have applied.

The meeting was not immediately rescheduled.

Legislative committee changes

The Legislature's Legislative Procedure and Arrangements Committee will meet as planned at 1 p.m. Wednesday, but in the state Capitol's Senate chamber to allow for the public to view via livestream. Committee members will be able to be present via telecommunications.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, who chairs the committee, said its agenda will be shortened to address priority business items.

Bismarck State College extends spring break

Bismarck State College is extending its spring break this week through March 25 and will then deliver most courses remotely through April 5.

The campus remains open and daily operations continue. Students can find details in their campus email and at

Bismarck hospital restrictions revised

CHI St. Alexius Health has revised its visitor restrictions.

Visitation is limited to two people 18 or older per patient.

Visits to pediatric patients and patients in the neonatal intensive care unit are limited to parents or legal guardians.

Maternity center patients can have two adult visitors only. Surgical or procedure patients also are limited to two healthy adults.

Transitional Care Unit visitation is limited to immediate family of patients in end-of-life care.

Circus postponed

The El Zagal Shrine Circus in Bismarck has been postponed from the first week of April until the second week in May.

Tickets will be honored for the new dates, and ticket holders need do nothing to keep their current seats.

North Dakota virus numbers

North Dakota has one confirmed presumptive case of COVID-19, in a Ward County man in his 60s who was not hospitalized and is recovering at home.

The health department has tested 124 people for the virus, with 123 coming back negative. The state is no longer listing "pending" results, since health care providers no longer need to get health department permission to send tests to the state lab.



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