Gov. Doug Burgum today expanded business closures in North Dakota to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect public health, while also suspending payment of unemployment taxes to allow employers to focus on their businesses and employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

Burgum offered his sympathies after the first confirmed death of a North Dakota resident due to COVID-19. The death occurred in a man in his 90s from Cass County who had underlying health conditions and acquired COVID-19 through community spread, meaning the source of infection was unknown.

“Kathryn and I extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends who have lost a loved one,” Burgum said. “Each of us has a responsibility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in North Dakota and protect those most vulnerable to the disease – our elderly and individuals with underlying health conditions. We’re all in this together.” 

The North Dakota Department of Health today confirmed 10 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 68 confirmed cases. Sixteen individuals have been hospitalized and 15 have recovered. A total of 2,708 tests have been completed, up 447 from the previous day.

Burgum announced that he signed an amended executive order today directing the closure of all salons operated by licensed cosmetologists, including manicurists and estheticians, as well as massage therapy, barbershop and tattoo/body art facilities, effective 12 a.m. Saturday, March 28, until April 6.

The governor noted that within the past couple of days, for the first time, North Dakota’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to community spread surpassed the number of travel-related or close-contact cases. The Governor’s Office also received a tremendous amount of input from business owners and technicians in the personal care sector, as well as the general public, asking to close these businesses for the health and safety of their workers and customers, Burgum noted.

Today’s action amends the March 19 executive order that directed the closure of all recreational facilities, health clubs, athletic facilities and theaters, including movie theater and music or entertainment venues, as well as all restaurants, bars, breweries, cafes and similar on-site dining establishments, except for takeout, delivery, curbside, drive-through and off-sale.

In a separate executive order signed today, Burgum by suspending payment of unemployment taxes and suspending interest on all Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) employer accounts, which will allow them to focus on preserving their business operations and retaining critical cash flow.

The order suspends payment of unemployment taxes and filing of payroll reports that are due on March 31 for the first quarter of 2020, meaning those payments and reports won’t be due until July 1. This provides relief to all 26,500 Job Service North Dakota account holders and defers approximately $30 million in tax contributions, giving employers the opportunity to focus on their business and employees during this crisis.

Reports and payments will still be accepted by Job Service on the normal schedule if an employer chooses to do so.