Monday, March 9, 2020 - 06:30 am

Gov. Doug Burgum today urged North Dakotans to take precautions to protect themselves and especially senior citizens and other populations who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

“Our highest priority is the health, safety and well-being of all North Dakotans, and that especially includes our seniors and individuals with serious chronic medical conditions who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Burgum said after a coronavirus briefing from Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and senior federal health officials. “We’re working closely with our hospitals, nursing homes and other stakeholders to ensure that every appropriate measure is being taken to protect vulnerable populations and all North Dakota citizens.”

North Dakota has not had a confirmed case of COVID-19. Of the five individuals who have been tested for the disease, four tests came back negative and one was still pending. Seven individuals were being monitored today for symptoms of COVID-19, and 17 were previously monitored, for a total of 24.

The North Dakota Department of Health today held teleconferences with leaders and staff from hospitals, long-term care centers and other health care facilities statewide to discuss preparedness and prevention measures. Similar statewide teleconferences were held for officials in the higher education and corrections systems, and more sessions are planned Tuesday for the business and faith-based communities to participate. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services issued additional guidance to nursing homes to help with infection control and prevention practices to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

According to the CDC, older adults and individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. The CDC recommends adults over the age of 60 and individuals with multiple underlying conditions refrain from group activities. These individuals are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness. In addition, those living with a vulnerable person are advised to take precautions as if they themselves were infected with COVID-19, including frequent handwashing and cleaning and disinfecting the home.

Nationwide, testing for coronavirus will increase rapidly over the next two weeks, and community spread also is increasing, so the public should be prepared that the number of COVID-19 positive cases will climb, Burgum said, citing information received in today’s briefing call. The governor highlighted information shared by the U.S. Surgeon General that children and young adults are at lower risk from COVID-19, and they face a lower mortality rate from COVID-19 than they do from the flu.

For more information on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, visit and Those who think they may have COVID-19 should call their health care provider before going to the clinic, unless it’s an emergency.