The North Dakota Department of Health confirmed Stark County’s 17th and 18th cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, Thursday morning.

The two newest Stark County cases were identified as community spread, which is the spread of the illness in which a source of infection comes from interaction with infected people within the community.

The first new case is that of a man in his 50s and the second case is that of a woman in her 60s.

“We know it’s in our community, we just need to take those extra precautions and follow the guidelines” said Sherry Adams, executive director of Southwest District Health Unit.

The NDDOH announced 12 new cases COVID-19 between April 1 from 3 p.m. through Midnight, bringing the total positive tests for the virus in North Dakota to 159. The department lists 43 people as having recovered from the illness, with 28 currently hospitalized. To date, three North Dakotans have died.

Gov. Doug Burgum announced Wednesday that the mandatory closure of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and personal care businesses will be extended through at least April 20. The Initial mandated closures were due to expire Monday, April 6, but Burgum said allowing those businesses to reopen next week would hamper the state's efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

Burgum said the state would give another update on whether the businesses can reopen by April 15.

"We want to be closed as long as we have to be to save lives and not a day longer," Burgum said Wednesday.

A total of 4980 tests for the virus have been reported to the state, and nearly every county has at least one known case of the illness.

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