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Burgum declares virus emergency, but says schools still open

March 13, 2020 GMT
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, center, declares a state of emergency involving the new coronavirus at a news conference at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. on Friday, March 13, 2020. Also attending were, from left, state Health Officer Mylynn Tufte, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, and North Dakota National Guard Maj. Gen. Alan S. Dohrmann. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, center, declares a state of emergency involving the new coronavirus at a news conference at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. on Friday, March 13, 2020. Also attending were, from left, state Health Officer Mylynn Tufte, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, and North Dakota National Guard Maj. Gen. Alan S. Dohrmann. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

BISMARCK N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Friday he has declared a state of emergency to combat the new coronavirus pandemic, but he said schools will remain open.

Burgum told reporters the declaration give him the ability to activate the National Guard if necessary. But he said unlike other states, North Dakota will keep K-12 schools open.

“We are making decisions based on facts, not on fear,” Burgum said. He said younger people apparently are not as affected by the virus that causes COVID-19, and closing schools would force children to stay with elderly grandparents who are more susceptible to the disease.

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North Dakota has confirmed only one case of the disease. Ten more tests were completed Friday but all were negative, Burgum said.

Health officials said the Ward County man in his 60s traveled to the East Coast and had contact with a person who also tested positive for the disease. He has isolated himself at home and his symptoms appear to be mild.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks.

In response to the pandemic, Sanford Health has a new visitor policy at its facilities. The policy effective Friday restricts all visitors to immediate family members and allows only one visitor at a time.

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