FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota officials began outlining worst-case scenarios — including building temporary hospitals in Bismarck and Fargo — after health officials Saturday confirmed the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period.
The state listed 26 new cases of coronavirus between Friday and Saturday afternoons, raising the total number of positive tests to 94. Gov. Doug Burgum said during a news briefing that the number might be closer to 1,000 cases, applying some models that have been used around the world.
“We were very flat in the beginning,” Burgum said. “Now, it appears we are on this climb upward that other states have seen.”
Burgum said modeling should become more precise once that state tops 100 cases, but revealed estimates Saturday that showed the state having anywhere between 600 and 1,300 positive tests three weeks down the road. He urged residents to follow state guidelines in order to stay on the low end of that model.
Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrman, the state’s National Guard commander, said officials have been meeting with representatives from the university system, hospitals and the Army Corps of Engineers about turning facilities at Bismarck State College and North Dakota State University into hospitals. Dohrman also put out a plea to retired health care workers to help “form a pool of human resources.”
Dohrman said the state has currently located 408 ventilators, which he said “is pretty good for a state our size.”
For the first time in several days, Burgum did not unveil any executive orders. However, State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte issued a confinement order for people coming into the state from out of the country or from 23 states with widespread community cases. Those people must stay at home for 14 days after arriving in North Dakota.
The list of states — which does not include neighboring Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana — is on the state health department website. People who violate the order could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, Tufte said.
The state has tested a total of 3,107 people, with 3,013 coming back negative. The health department on Friday reported the state’s first death due to COVID-19, a man in his 90s from Cass County who had underlying health conditions.
Sixteen people are hospitalized. The Good Samaritan Society Sunset Drive nursing home in Mandan confirmed in a release Saturday that one its residents had tested positive, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.