BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Saturday, April 4, announced 13 new cases COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.

The total positive tests for the virus in North Dakota is up to 186, however the department lists 63 people as having recovered from the illness. There are currently 30 residents hospitalized with the illness and three North Dakotans have died since the outbreak hit the state last month.

The new cases announced Saturday come from all over the state, including the four most populous counties — Cass, Burleigh, Grand Forks and Ward.

The two new cases in Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, bring the county's total up to 48.

Grand Forks County now has 10 known cases of COVID-19, with the addition of four Saturday. Stark County, which encompasses Dickinson, has the third most cases of a county in the state at 22.

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A total of 6,207 tests for the virus have been reported to the state, and 25 counties have at least one known case of the illness. However, Burgum has previously said that the cases are reported based on patients' mailing addresses, rather than their actual location in the state, so it is unknown where infected patients are quarantining or seeking medical help.

As of March 29, the state lab and private providers in North Dakota have also performed 227 tests on residents of other states and found five known cases of the illness, including three of Minnesota residents and one each of Colorado and Kansas residents, according to the health department. Citing medical privacy, the department would not say where the residents are actually located if still in North Dakota.

Job Service North Dakota received more than 28,600 claims for unemployment benefits between mid-March and the beginning of April — far more than the total number of claims filed in all of 2019. Many of the claims have come from the energy and hospitality sectors, said Job Service Director Bryan Klipfel.

The agency announced Saturday it can now accept claims from independent contractors, gig economy workers, self-employed individuals and workers who previously exhausted unemployment benefits, in addition to regular unemployment claims. The newly eligible slice of workers was specifically outlined in the federal stimulus package passed last month. However, the agency said it has not yet been told by the U.S. Department of Labor how to process the new claims, so it could be some time before workers receive payouts.

Gov. Doug Burgum pushed back on criticism Friday that he is not doing enough to prevent the virus' spread in North Dakota. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he worries about North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa not issuing stay-at-home orders. North Dakota is now one of nine states that has not issued a statewide order.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that all states should issue and enforce stay-at-home orders to prevent the virus' spread.

Burgum has advocated for personal responsibility over government mandates and even encourages residents to take in the outdoors as long as they stay 6 feet apart from each other. He said he wondered if states will face lawsuits claiming some orders are unconstitutional.

In response to Walz's statement, Burgum said each governor cares about their states and uses information specific to their states to make their own decisions. He also noted that people in Minnesota are still allowed to go outside for multiple reasons.

“Let’s just figure out how to be North Dakota smart on this one,” he said.

An online petition asking Burgum to order mandatory shelter-in-place has gained more than 1,000 signatures since it was created on Friday afternoon.

"Gov. Burgum needs to understand that while people are indeed responsible for their own health, we must also do our part to protect the medically complex, immunocompromised, and elderly," said petition creator Denise French. "I firmly believe the majority of this state understands the vital importance of a shelter-in-place order and we need leadership who supports the health and wellness of all North Dakotans."

Burgum called on residents Friday to look past the labels, read the details of the stay-at-home orders and take note of how population demographics differ from state to state.

“We do have some natural advantages,” he said, noting New York is more densely populated than North Dakota. “Make no mistake, I will use every tool at my disposal as governor to protect the lives and safety of North Dakotans, but I’m only going to use those tools if it makes sense.”

Every state now has at least 150 confirmed cases of the illness — New York state has been hit the hardest, with more than 100,000 known cases and nearly 3,000 deaths. Minnesota has 865 known cases and 24 deaths, and South Dakota had announced 212 positive tests and two deaths as of Saturday morning. The Dakotas have among the lowest numbers of positive tests in the country.

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