GRAND FORKS — Mayor Mike Brown plans to order Grand Forks residents to stop congregating in bars and restaurants as a method to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

It would mean those businesses can still be open, but they cannot have groups of people inside, other than workers. That allows for options such as delivery and pickup.

The plan, Brown said Thursday morning, March 19, is to announce the decision at 2:15 p.m. Thursday in concert with the mayors of Fargo and Devils Lake. City Attorney Howard Swanson is drafting the declaration morning. Brown’s order could also extend to other places where people get together, such as movie theaters.

“Any social gathering place we would look at, too,” Brown said. “Nail salons, hairdressers, I’m sure those would be included. We’d still encourage takeout, drive-through, and delivery.”

He also indicated that it could ultimately bar people from congregating in large numbers at all.

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Brown has the power to do that because of an emergency declaration he made on Monday evening. The declaration gives him a suite of powers that range from dramatic – enacting quarantines and closing businesses – to more mundane ones, such as closing city streets.

On Tuesday, Brown used his emergency powers to close Grand Forks City Hall and all other city buildings to the public. He also used it to order nonessential personnel to work from home.

Brown, City Administrator Todd Feland, Public Health Director Debbie Swanson, and Dr. Josh Deere, Altru Hospital's primary care director, are scheduled to update the public about local efforts to slow the coronaivurs' spread at 2:15 p.m.

That news conference will be available on the city's GFTV2 channel and on its Facebook page.

This is a developing story that Herald staff will update throughout the day.

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