North Dakota coronavirus news, March 18: Norsk Hostfest canceled

North Dakota coronavirus news, March 18: Norsk Hostfest canceled

From the North Dakota coronavirus news series
Coronavirus need to know

The latest North Dakota coronavirus news: Norsk Hostfest, coal group, counties, courts, YMCA, theaters and more.

Norsk Hostfest canceled

The Norsk Hostfest Board of Directors has canceled the annual Scandinavian heritage festival set for Sept. 30-Oct. 3 at the State Fairgrounds in Minot.

Officials earlier had suspended ticket sales, and on Wednesday they called off the event. People with tickets will get refunds.

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. It had operated for 42 consecutive years.

“Some may believe the decision is premature; however, Norsk Hostfest is a year-long effort that depends on early ticket sales and extensive planning that is well underway,” the Hostfest statement said. “Given the current disruption in regular activity, we are unable to fully staff and execute our sales efforts now. We have no answers to what might be the situation in September. In response, we have chosen to follow the path of minimizing risk to all involved.”

YMCA facilities close

Family Wellness in Mandan and the Missouri Valley YMCA in Bismarck have closed. 

The Y potentially plans to reopen Tuesday and Family Wellness on April 1. 

AARP closes Tax-Aide sites

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide sites in all 11 North Dakota locations, including three in Bismarck and one in Dickinson, have been closed.

The program is the nation's largest free, volunteer-based tax preparation and assistance service.

"Tax-Aide is prioritizing the health of taxpayers, our volunteers and the communities we serve by suspending service until further notice," AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson said in a statement.

Coal group cancels meeting

The Lignite Energy Council is canceling its 47th Annual Meeting slated for April 15-16.

The trade group representing the state’s coal industry plans to extend its fall meeting to two days, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. The event usually draws between 300 and 400 participants. Members who have already submitted registrations, sponsorships or exhibitor fees will be refunded.

Burleigh County limits access

Burleigh County is limiting public contact and access to all county facilities.

The county said it is open for business but “promoting alternate communications” -- telephone, email, website, conference call, drop box, mail or video calls.

People with business to conduct are asked to directly contact the department they need, to receive instructions. Department contacts can be found at:

Morton County limits access

Morton County is limiting public access to the courthouse, highway department and law enforcement center.

The facilities are open for business, but they are locked and visitors are being let in by appointment only. People should call ahead and attempt to complete their business via phone. If that isn’t possible, they should make an appointment, and department staff will allow them into the building.

Fillable forms are available on the county website’s home page at, and the public is encouraged to complete various applications and permits online.

Courts announce changes

Federal courthouses in Bismarck and North Dakota's other large cities are remaining open, with most business continuing as usual. However, people who are considered at high risk for having COVID-19 will be denied entry to U.S. District Court.

This includes people who have recently traveled to, or had contact with someone who traveled to, global hot spots China, South Korea, Italy or Iran; people who have been asked by a medical professional to self-quarantine; people who have been diagnosed with the disease or had contact with someone who has been diagnosed; and people showing symptoms.

Separately, the North Dakota Supreme Court Law Library and Legal Self-Help Center have closed to all walk-in patrons until further notice. Staff will provide help services by phone and email.

Behavioral health resources available

The North Dakota Department of Human Services is offering resources for behavioral health amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is natural to feel anxiety and worry during this outbreak,” said Pamela Sagness, director of the department’s Behavioral Health Division. “It is important to take some time to take care of our own behavioral health and look out for those most vulnerable in our community.”

The division recommends the following:

  • People with a substance abuse disorder who need support can call Recovery Talk at 1-844-44TALK2 to speak with a trained peer support specialist in North Dakota.
  • People with thoughts of suicide can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • People can dial 2-1-1 for FirstLink services, which include listening and support, referrals to resources or help, and crisis intervention.
  • People can receive crisis counseling and support for emotional distress through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline by calling 1-800-985-5990 or texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746. People who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-846-8517 for TTY services.

State treasurer office makes changes

State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said her office will continue regular operations through Friday, then her staff will begin to work from home Monday, with physical access to the office available only from 9-10:30 a.m.

A dropbox is available outside of those hours, and the office is available by phone and email. Schmidt said the changes are to reduce person-to-person contact during the coronavirus pandemic.

Movie theaters close

The two movie theaters in Bismarck have closed.

Both the Grand Theatres and AMC Classic Bismarck have posted on their websites that they are closed until further notice.

Animal shelter closes

The Central Dakota Humane Society shelter will be closing to public visitors including volunteers for the foreseeable future, and its annual Bene-Pet 2020 Great Catsby Gala Dinner & Auction fundraiser has been rescheduled for Aug. 1.

People who hold tickets can use them at the Aug. 1 event or contact the shelter for a refund. 

People wanting to adopt a pet also should first call the shelter, at 701-667-2020.

Park sites close visitor centers

National Park Service sites in North Dakota have closed their visitor centers until further notice.

The sites include Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site and Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.

"Where it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance, roads, trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas will remain open to provide healthy options for the public to enjoy," the National Park Service said in a statement.

North Dakota virus numbers

North Dakota has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19: a Morton County woman in her 30s, a Morton County female in the 10-19 age range, a Burleigh County man in his 50s, a Burleigh County woman in her 20s, two Ward County men in their 60s, and a Cass County woman in her 20s. None has been hospitalized. All are recovering at home.

The health department has tested 362 North Dakotans for the virus, with 355 coming back negative.


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