The latest North Dakota coronavirus news: Mandan summer events, BSC finalists, student loans, bookmobile, human service zones and more.
Mandan events planned
Event organizers in Mandan are moving forward with planning popular summer events, despite the uncertainties of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’re planning for the best, but preparing for the worst,” said Del Wetsch, executive director of the Mandan Progress Organization. “If the opportunity to host the community events returns, we want to be ready.”
The organization is the force behind Mandan annual events that include the Fourth of July parade, Mandan Rodeo Days, Touch a Truck, Buggies N Blues, Art in the Park Festival, The Main Event and Oktoberfest.
Any cancellations will come as close to the event date as possible, and refunds are guaranteed, according to Wetsch.
More information can be found at www.mandanprogress.org.
BSC president interviews
Finalists for the Bismarck State College presidency will interview with the State Board of Higher Education over video call on Thursday due to concerns over travel and the need for social distancing.
The meeting will be broadcast to the public via livestream starting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Some board members will attend via conference call at alternate locations to limit the number of people in the room, per guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The link to the meeting is ndus.edu/live-stream/.
Finalists Clark Harris, Doug Jensen and Phil Klein will interview with the board for an hour each, with a 15-minute break in-between. The interview with Harris begins at 9 a.m., with Jensen at 10:15 a.m. and with Klein at 11:30 a.m.
The board will go into executive session over the lunch hour to discuss candidates and contract terms, and will reconvene to appoint the next president of BSC. That person will succeed the retiring Larry Skogen.
Morton County meetings
Morton County is offering a virtual option for public attendance and participation at county commission and other board meetings.
The goal is to minimize public gatherings and help mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus.
For instructions on how to participate in future meetings, click on the Virtual Meetings icon on the county home page under “Quick Links,” at https://www.mortonnd.org/.
Morton County Commission meetings also are recorded and played at various dates and times on Government Access, cable channel 2 in the Bismarck-Mandan area. All past meetings are available online at any time on www.freetv.org.
Student loan breaks
Bank of North Dakota student loan borrowers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak can request to defer payments for six months.
The interest rate for variable rate borrowers decreases April 1, so the state-owned bank will reduce payments to reflect the new interest rate. In addition, all borrowers with a fixed interest rate will receive a decrease in their interest rate by at least 1% when the bank is able to work through technical issues.
“We understand this is an extremely challenging time for our borrowers and want to assist them,” Bank President and CEO Eric Hardmeyer said in a statement.
The bank's student loan portfolio is $1.18 billion, with 46,760 borrowers.
“The federal student loan program is automatically providing for the deferment of payment for all borrowers,” Hardmeyer said. “Instead of assuming our borrowers want this change, we are requesting they contact us. We realize some may want to take advantage of the reduced interest rates and continue repaying their student loans on schedule.”
To request the deferment of payments, borrowers can complete a form online at bnd.nd.gov/covid or call 800-472-2166, extension 328-5660.
Foundation disaster fund
The North Dakota Community Foundation has established the 2020 COVID-19 Disaster Response & Recovery Fund to assist nonprofits, government agencies and others in the state affected by the pandemic.
The foundation’s board of directors has seeded the fund with $50,000 and is accepting donations, which are tax deductible. The group said 100% of donations will go toward disaster response.
A volunteer committee will recommend grant awards from the fund to help with response and recovery efforts. Grant applications will be available soon on the foundation’s website at: https://www.ndcf.net/.
Donations can be made online at www.NDCF.net/Donate, or checks can be made out to "North Dakota Community Foundation" with "COVID-19 Fund" in the memo line and mailed to: North Dakota Community Foundation, P.O. Box 387, Bismarck, N.D. 58502.
Questions can be directed to the foundation's main office at 701-222-8349.
Human service zones, clinics
Services continue at the North Dakota Department of Human Services’ eight regional human service clinics and four satellite clinics throughout the state, but with practices for social distancing.
Certain in-person group therapies have been temporarily replaced with telephone or video conferencing based on a client’s need. Groups have been limited to 10 or fewer people, seating has been arranged for social distancing and treatment times have been staggered at the clinics.
Crisis services are still available for walk-in assessments and triage services during regular walk-in hours. Confidential crisis phone lines for clients are available 24/7. Clients will continue to receive mediation through on-site administration, delivery or other agreed-upon methods.
North Dakota’s Department of Human Services and its 19 mostly multicounty human service zones have closed their administrative offices to the public but continue to provide services on site or remotely for social distancing. Clients can reach zone staff by phone and email and utilize drop boxes.
New tutorial videos are available for online help.
Morton Mandan bookmobile suspended
The Morton Mandan Public Library’s bookmobile program has been temporarily suspended.
The program had prepared to play a crucial role in plans to get people counted during the 2020 census, particularly in the area's underserved communities.
Staff no longer will bring tablets for people to complete the census on the bookmobile, following CDC guidelines.
People also can no longer fill out the survey on computers at the library, which is temporarily closed.
The library still plans to decorate the bookmobile with a census banner and drive out to communities, Assistant Director Monica DeCarlo said. It also has new plans to play a recording advertising the 2020 census on the bookmobile’s speakers.
Walmart hiring workers
Walmart plans to hire more than 500 workers in North Dakota.
The hiring is part of a push by Walmart to hire 150,000 new workers nationally through the end of May for its stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers.
The positions are temporary, but some could convert to permanent positions over time, the company said.
Walmart is reaching out to groups representing the restaurant and hospitality industries, whose workers have been impacted by shutdowns.
Bek announces hardship steps
Steele-base Bek Communications is taking several steps to help customers during the coronavirus outbreak.
It will double customer internet speeds at no charge, and suspend late fees and disconnects due to economic hardships caused by the pandemic.
Bek also is providing free broadband service for four months for new customers with telehealth, education and work-from-home needs.
The Federal Communications Commission recently recognized Bek as one of nearly 400 companies that have taken the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge.” More information can be found at: https://www.fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected.
North Dakota virus numbers
North Dakota has 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19: 18 in Burleigh County, seven in Morton County, three apiece in Ward County and Cass County, two in Pierce County, and one each in Ramsey, Walsh and Dunn counties. Four people have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths. State and private labs have conducted 1,602 total tests, with 1,566 coming back negative. There have been seven hospitalizations, and no deaths.
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