North Dakota coronavirus news, March 27: U-Mary calls off graduation

North Dakota coronavirus news, March 27: U-Mary calls off graduation

From the North Dakota coronavirus news series
Coronavirus need to know

The latest North Dakota coronavirus news: U-Mary graduation, hospital masks, boat ramps and more.

U-Mary graduation plans

A traditional commencement ceremony will not take place at the University of Mary this year as public health officials continue to caution against large gatherings.

Graduation had been scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 25. At that time, the university’s president, Monsignor James Shea, will hold a livestream “to offer some words of encouragement and a blessing for those who would otherwise have been in cap and gown at the Bismarck Event Center at that hour,” he wrote in a letter to the campus this week.

U-Mary plans to hold a “double commencement” on April 24, 2021, to honor both this year’s and next year’s graduates.

The school also is making changes to its year-round campus experience, in which students can take courses over the summer to complete their degrees faster. The classes will be offered entirely online, Shea wrote.

Hospital masks

Sanford Bismarck and CHI St. Alexius hospital officials say they have enough masks and other protective equipment, despite chatter online that health care workers are treating coronavirus patients without masks.

“At this time, we are not experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment. We monitor supplies daily and are doing what we can to be good stewards of the resources we have,” CHI St. Alexius spokeswoman Chelsey Kralicek said in a statement.

Sanford officials said they “appreciate the community offering help” but “we currently have adequate supplies.”

“However, the need for masks continues to increase. If you have masks or other PPE you’d like to donate, please contact 701-323-5762," Sanford spokesman Weston Dressler said in a statement.

Demand for masks and other personal protective equipment has skyrocketed as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 500,000 on Thursday.

Sanford updates policy

Sanford Health has updated its visitor policy.

Visitors no longer are allowed in Sanford Health hospitals, with the following exceptions:

  • For births, NICU, pediatrics: One predetermined visitor allowed daily.

  • End of life: determined on a case-by-case basis.

  • End of life COVID-19 patient: One predetermined visitor allowed daily. Visitor must follow protective measures including masking and must self-quarantine for 14 days following visit.

Patients should not bring a guest for Sanford clinic visits and outpatient appointments unless the patient is a minor or an adult in need of assistance.

People with COVID-19 symptoms should call their regular health care provider -- not come in person to a clinic.

For more information, go to sanfordhealth.org.

St. A's updates policy

CHI St. Alexius Health is reducing its current two visitor policy to just one visitor per patient.

All visitors must be 18 years or older. The only exception to the new restriction will be for visitors of pediatric patients and patients in neonatal intensive care unit areas. Those patients are allowed two parents or legal guardians.

CHI St. Alexius Health recently limited access to its hospital and clinics in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Screenings will continue to take place at all entrances.

Blue Cross changes

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the state’s largest health insurance carrier, is giving customers more time to pay their premiums.

The company is extending the 31-day requirement to 62 days for all those with individual plans or small group coverage -- businesses with under 50 employees.

The company will work with larger businesses directly on a case-by-case basis to determine alternative payment plans. 

“In support of our communities and the impact this pandemic is having on our economy, we encourage all members and employer groups to pay their premiums as best they can,” President and CEO Dan Conrad said in a statement. “However, we recognize that we need to do all we can to support our members and ensure we remove the financial barriers they may have in getting care.”

As businesses are forced to reduce hours or lay off employees, Blue Cross Blue Shield also is allowing greater flexibility in eligibility requirements.

Fishing guidance

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is encouraging anglers to practice social distancing while loading and unloading at boat ramps, and fishing at popular shore areas.

Anglers looking to enjoy the nice weather this weekend by fishing open water on the Missouri River System can check the status of boat ramps at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. The agency will post ramp status updates as they occur.

Anglers who shore-fish also are urged to keep a safe distance from others. Game and Fish will be monitoring popular areas to determine if high-traffic areas need to be closed.

“We encourage people to get outside and fish and enjoy the outdoors,” Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand said. “But we also need to practice the recommendations for minimizing the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

Symphony concert postponed

The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra will not hold its "Star Crossed Love" concert planned for April 18, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Please keep your tickets, as we are currently reviewing our options and will be in touch as further decisions are made," Executive Director Mike Gardner said.

For more information, contact the organization at 701-258-8345 or email bmso@midconetwork.com.

North Dakota virus numbers

North Dakota has 68 confirmed cases of COVID-19: 25 in Burleigh County, 11 each in Morton and Cass counties, seven in Stark County, four in Ward County, three in Ramsey County, two in Pierce County, and one each in Walsh, Dunn, Foster, McHenry and McIntosh counties. State and private labs have conducted 2,708 total tests, with 2,640 coming back negative. There have been 16 hospitalizations, one death, and 15 recoveries.

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