An outbreak of Covid-19 at a wind power facility in North Dakota has forced it to temporarily close, the latest example of how the pandemic is impacting the renewable energy sector.
Over the weekend, North Dakota's Department of Health said there were 110 confirmed cases of coronavirus in people connected to the LM Wind Power plant in Grand Forks — a total that includes both employees and "their close contacts." The site, which produces rotor blades for wind turbines and employs 900 people, closed last Wednesday after eight workers tested positive for coronavirus.
In a statement, a spokesperson for GE — which owns LM Wind Power — said the Grand Forks facility would be temporarily closed for at least two weeks in order to "conduct an extensive disinfection process." Employees would continue to be paid "as usual" during this time, they added.
"We will continue to support our employees and monitor their condition as we determine when and how we can re-start the plant safely," the spokesperson went on to state.
On Saturday, North Dakota's State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte issued a quarantine order for LM Wind Power employees.
Among other things, they have been directed to quarantine for 14 days starting from April 16 and must remain at their home or place of residence "unless otherwise authorized" by the North Dakota Department of Health.
Tufte described quarantine as being "necessary and the least restrictive alternative to protect and preserve public health."
"As COVID-19 continues to spread across North Dakota, staying home as much as possible continues to be one of the best ways to reduce your exposure to the coronavirus," she added.
Last Wednesday the governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum, signed an executive order to extend business restrictions in the state through April 30 and laid out the conditions required for "a graduated reopening process" after that date. These include having "robust" and "widespread" rapid testing capacity in place as well as robust contact tracing and infrastructure.
As of Sunday, 13,630 people across North Dakota had been tested for coronavirus, with the state recording 585 positive cases. Ten people have been recorded as dying with Covid-19, according to official figures.