BISMARCK — The popular downtown Bismarck restaurant NoodleZip announced late last week that it would close its doors for several weeks in an abundance of caution after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

The restaurant initially announced the news Friday night, July 17, on its Facebook page after learning that an employee had tested positive earlier that day. In a statement, head chef and owner Marty Lee asked customers to allow his business the time to handle the issue in the "right way."

"As soon as we found out, at that moment we decided to shut it down," Lee told The Forum on Monday, July 20, just after receiving his own COVID-19 test. Lee said he expects the restaurant will remain closed "until the end of July for sure."

While the North Dakota government has issued loose guidelines for restaurants dealing with the coronavirus, the state does not require businesses to take any actions or precautions in the event of a positive COVID test. Lee said he decided to close his restaurant out of his own concern for employees and customers.

Several other Bismarck restaurants have temporarily closed down in recent weeks after employees either tested positive for the coronavirus or were exposed to others who had tested positive. Butterhorn, which is next door to NoodleZip, as well as the bar Sports Page in south Bismarck, closed two weeks ago because of employee exposure to the virus. Both restaurants reopened in the last few days and told Forum News Service that all of their employees had been tested.

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The Wood House Restaurant in north Bismarck also announced last week on Facebook that it would be closing indefinitely after multiple employees were exposed to an individual who tested positive for the virus.

These announcements come as Bismarck and the surrounding Burleigh County have emerged as one of the largest hot spots in the state for COVID-19. According to a report released by the North Dakota Department of Health on Monday morning, Burleigh has 167 active cases, just behind the state's highest active case count of 169 in Cass County.

Burleigh also suffered its first death from the pandemic over the weekend, a man in his 80s reported to have underlying health conditions.

Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report For America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.