People gathered at the capitol in protest to reopen businesses

Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 10:24 PM CDT
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It's apparent that some North Dakotans are fed up with business closures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

And they say it's time to reopen the economy.

North Dakotans have gathered at the State Capitol in protest as a push for Gov. Doug Burgum to reopen all state businesses.

A protest created from a Facebook page hosted by Health Freedom North Dakota brought out a large crowd of North Dakotans to the State Capitol with a single message.

"We need our businesses opened up. We need to get back to work. We have kids to feed. We can't wait for checks to come to us," says Belfield resident Deborah Hutzenbeler.

The demonstration was created to quote "show Governor Doug Burgum and the nation that North Dakotans want to get back to work." This, after Governor Burgum cautioned residents that the worst impacts of COVID-19 are still to come.

"We are not far enough down that track to safely lift business closures at this time. As you saw from the numbers today, the numbers continue to climb and the peak for North Dakota is likely still ahead," said Burgum on April 15 about reopening businesses.

Despite the Governor's position, signs, megaphones and flags lined State Capitol grounds.

Many voicing opinions that closures aren't necessary.

"It's too much of a hardship to be completely closed down. We're not New York City. We're not California. We don't have a huge population. Even if the worst should happen in North Dakota, we would not be overflowing with patients in our hospitals," said Grand Forks resident Roland Riemers.

Yet, local health care providers warn the opposite.

"If people don't social distance and you have a very rapid rise and spike in cases, the health care system will have difficulty accommodating them," said Chris Meeker with Sanford Health.

The State Office of Management and Budget, which is the agency in charge of distributing organized protest licenses, says protest organizers placed their request late. OMB says it wouldn't have been approved even if it was sent on time because all presentations have been shut down on Capitol grounds.

However, Highway Patrol said they monitored the protest and allowed it to proceed.

Burgum said he would reconsider opening businesses on April 20, but business closures have been extended until April 30.