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5 things to know today: Coronavirus projection, Business closures, Insulin affordability, Unemployment payments, Tribal aid

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1. New forecast shows drastic drop in predicted North Dakota deaths from coronavirus

A forecasting model of the coronavirus pandemic that is closely followed by officials now shows a sharp reduction in predicted deaths for North Dakota during the first wave of the outbreak.

The model by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on Wednesday, April 15, predicted that North Dakota will have 32 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, by Aug. 4.

As of Wednesday, North Dakota has reported nine deaths from COVID-19, among 365 positive cases; 142 of those infected have recovered and 13 were in the hospital.

Read more from The Forum's Patrick Springer

2. Burgum extends business closures as North Dakota hits new single-day high in coronavirus cases


North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks about coronavirus at a press conference in Bismarck on Tuesday, March 24. Sign language interpreter Lindsey Solberg Herbel accompanies him behind the lectern. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum extended the mandatory closure of certain businesses Wednesday, April 15, citing the need to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.

Burgum's announcement means music venues, gyms, movie theaters, massage and tattoo parlors and hair and nail salons will remain closed until at least April 30. Restaurants and bars are still permitted to offer drive-thru, takeout and delivery services but cannot serve patrons in-house.

Before Wednesday's extension, the mandatory closures were due to end Monday, April 20. He noted the closures could be extended further if the number of new cases over the next two weeks does not inspire confidence.

More from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

3. 'A true David versus Goliath story': Walz signs Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act into law

James Holt and Nicole Smith-Holt hugged on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, after the Minnesota Senate approved legislation establishing an insulin access program named after their late son Alec Smith. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

A day after legislators overwhelmingly approved Minnesota's long-awaited insulin affordability legislation , Gov. Tim Walz has signed the bill into law.


In a Wednesday, April 15 ceremony conducted via video conference, activists and lawmakers were beaming into their webcams as the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act was signed into law. During what he called a dark period, as the state continues to fend off the COVID-19 pandemic , Walz said the passage of the bill is a "bright spot."

Read more from Forum News Service's Sarah Mearhoff

4. Extra ND weekly jobless benefit payments on their way

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Job Service ND Director Bryan Klipfel Submitted photo

North Dakota residents collecting jobless benefits should get a little help with paying their bills in the next two days.

The extra $600 weekly benefit will begin and will be added in accounts either this Thursday, April 16, or Friday, said Job Service ND Director Bryan Klipfel on Wednesday night.

"This has been a complicated process," Klipfel said in an email. "However, we did resolve the IT issue this week."

Read more from The Forum's Barry Amundson


5. North Dakota tribes worried about casino aid, testing

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Turtle Mountain Tribal Chairman Jamie Azure talks about coronavirus worries on his northeast North Dakota reservation on Wednesday, April 15. Barry Amundson / The Forum

North Dakota tribal leaders expressed deep concerns to federal officials on Wednesday, April 15, about the inability to receive loans for shuttered casinos as well as a lack of testing equipment on their reservations.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Faith Jr. said in the conference call set up by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven that they had some reserves to pay casino employees so far, but were "running out of time" to continue to help workers as they sought clarification from the Small Business Administration on their loan program.

The problem, according to Hoeven's top aide on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is that the federal CARES Act has a regulation in the SBA loan program for small businesses under 500 employees that only 30% of their revenue could come from gambling.

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