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5 things to know today: Factory outbreak, Pork plant infections, NDSU cases, Grassfire dangers, Farm help

U.S. Health Dept. workers prepare a specimen during COVID-19 testing at the LM Wind Power parking lot on Thursday, April 16. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

1. Altru Health System president warns of 'serious event' at LM Wind Power plant

A COVID-19 outbreak at a Grand Forks factory is “a big deal” that could overwhelm the city’s hospital system, an administrator there said Friday, April 17.

The North Dakota National Guard tested hundreds of people on Thursday, April 16, at LM Wind Power, a General Electric-owned company where at least nine people had tested positive for the disease, which is caused by a novel coronavirus that’s swept across the country.

More from WDAY's Matt Henson and Forum News Service

2. Positive COVID-19 cases reported at Minnesota pork plant

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Any doubt that COVID-19 was circulating in Worthington and the surrounding area has now been erased.

There have been 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the JBS pork plant in Worthington, according to UFCW Local 663, the union representing workers at the meatpacking plant in southwestern Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz addressed the outbreak during his daily news conference Friday, saying he’s spoken to the chief executive officer of JBS, its plant manager, representatives from UFCW Local 663 and Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle.

Read more from the Forum News Service

3. More coronavirus cases reported at NDSU

A masked statue of Glenn Hill, a mathematics professor at North Dakota State University, is a sign of the times when people are instructed to take precautions against catching the coronavirus, which causes respiratory illness. NDSU students are among those who will be helping state and local health officials trace contacts of those who were in close contact with anyone infected by the virus. Ross Collins / Special to The Forum

More people within the North Dakota State University community have tested positive for the coronavirus, but the school doesn't plan to release further information on the cases, including numbers and if students have been infected.

In a Thursday, April 16, statement to the campus, University Police and Safety Director Mike Borr said the school was "beginning to see a few instances of those who contracted the illness early on returning to good health and returning to the campus if they are not able to work remotely." He said he has responded to several questions about the status of university buildings and if more cases had been reported on campus.


Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten

NDSU president says additional budget cuts could be on the way

4. Grassland fire danger high across North Dakota

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The threat from grassfires was warned to be high across North Dakota on Friday, April 17. Forum file photo

All of North Dakota was at a high risk or very high risk of wildfires for Friday, April 17, according to the fire danger map issued by the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory.

Meanwhile the fire danger is also high in northwest Minnesota and the fire danger is moderate in west-central Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources .

High fire danger means dry, dead vegetation will ignite readily and fires can start easily from most causes, according to a news release from the North Dakota Forest Service.

Read more from The Forum's Dave Olson


5. USDA announces $19B food assistance program

FSA Agriculture cornfield

The United States Department of Agriculture announced Friday a $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to help support farmers and ranchers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the program, $16 billion will go toward direct payments for farmers and ranchers. The program was funded using the $9.5 billion emergency program secured in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and $6.5 billion in Credit Commodity Corporation funding, per a press release from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

The additional $3 billion will be in purchases of agriculture products, including meat, dairy and produce to support producers and provide food for those in need.

Read more from Forum News Service's John Miller

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