BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health has confirmed the state’s first known case of coronavirus, Gov. Doug Burgum announced Wednesday night, March 11.

The Ward County man, who is in his 60s, has not been hospitalized and is currently self-isolating and recovering at home, according to the governor’s statement.

Prior to becoming ill, the man who tested positive had traveled out of state where he had contact with a person who has since tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. The public health investigation is ongoing.

Ward County is in north-central North Dakota. It is the fourth most populous county in the state with about 69,000 residents, most of whom live in or near Minot. The Minot Air Force Base also lies within the county and has an estimated 12,000 residents, including about 5,500 active-duty military members.

As state health officials await confirmation testing from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, team members are working to identify people who may have come into close contact with the man.

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The health department has tested 27 people for COVID-19, according to the state’s test tracking webpage. Twelve tests came back negative, and results for 14 tests are still pending.

Burgum says North Dakotans should take the virus seriously and he encourages people to stay informed and follow recommendations from the CDC for reducing the spread of COVID-19, including washing hands frequently and staying at home if they are sick.

“We have been planning and preparing for this since January, and our top priority remains the health, safety and well-being of all North Dakotans,” Burgum said in his statement. “With the North Dakota Department of Health and its partners at the state, local and federal levels, we are working together to stay on top of this rapidly evolving situation.”

“We encourage citizens to be prepared and not panic — to base their actions on facts, not fear,” Burgum added.

North Dakota now joins the more than 40 states with confirmed cases of coronavirus. Due to newly available testing that came online last week, many states have reported their first cases of the virus in recent days.

On Wednesday, Minnesota reported its fourth and fifth known cases while South Dakota reported ongoing tests had revealed eight total confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Nationwide, the number of cases topped 1,300 by Wednesday evening, with more than 30 deaths.

On Tuesday, a University of North Dakota student tested negative for COVID-19. That student, who had been traveling domestically and returned home feeling ill, was quarantined for approximately 24 hours before the test results came back negative.

Burgum and department officials will hold a press conference on the state’s response at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 12, in Bismarck. The press conference will be streamed live on the department’s Facebook page.

Individuals can help protect themselves from COVID-19 by practicing everyday preventative behaviors. Stay home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes, frequently wash hands with soap and water and clean frequently touched surfaces.

Symptoms of COVID-19 in people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. People who think they may have COVID-19 should call their health care provider first before going to the clinic, unless it’s an emergency.

The CDC recommends adults over the age of 60 and those with multiple underlying health conditions refrain from group activities. These individuals are twice as likely to develop serious COVID-19 illness.

North Dakotans should prepare for situations common during a pandemic such as canceled travel and events, school and business closures, avoiding large crowds, and the need to stay at home when you’ve been exposed to a family member who has been sick.

For questions related to COVID-19, the public can call the health department hotline at 866-207-2880 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Individuals who need medical advice should contact their health care provider.

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