North Dakota coronavirus news, March 19: State facilities access restricted

North Dakota coronavirus news, March 19: State facilities access restricted

From the North Dakota coronavirus news series
Coronavirus need to know

The latest North Dakota coronavirus news: Open government, event center, Bismarck and Lincoln, social services and more.

State facilities access

Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday issued an executive order restricting public access until April 6 at state facilities, including the Capitol in Bismarck.

His order also directs most state government employees to work remotely. The state Information Technology Department has so far transitioned about 3,100 state employees to platforms for working remotely, the governor’s office said.

“The health, safety and well-being of our citizens remains our top priority,” Burgum said in a statement. “With cases of community spread now confirmed in North Dakota, focusing on the health and well-being of Team ND members is crucial to ensuring continuity of government services for our citizens.”

Burgum also said that state government remains open and functioning but has modified how its agency business is conducted during the coronavirus pandemic.

A screening process is under development to allow public access to several state facilities only by appointment. Until the process is in effect, there is no public access.

Bismarck operations

Bismarck city facilities are being locked to the public beginning Friday. The shutdown applies to City Hall, but not to the airport.

Essential city services are operating. Residents are urged to call or use the city's website at www.bismarcknd.gov.

The city also said that Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health has activated a Health Department Operations Center to coordinate efforts among the many public and private entities involved in fighting the spread of COVID-19. The center will serve a central role in the city's prevention and response efforts, advising the city commission and administration.

Open government urged

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is urging local governments to continue complying with North Dakota's open meetings law during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stenehjem in a statement said he has received questions about open meeting requirements during the public health crisis. He said the law recognizes that emergency matters arise during crisis situations that might require a government entity to hold a meeting on short notice. But it must post a public meeting notice and agenda. If the meeting is a special meeting, the entity also must notify the official newspaper.

“Emergency situations such as this call for more transparency, not less, regarding what public officials are doing to protect the public, while not hindering the important work being conducted,” Stenehjem said. “Local government entities should consider whether it is feasible or advisable to postpone or cancel regularly scheduled meetings. If a regular or special meeting is necessary, the public entity may need to be creative to comply with public health recommendations while still preserving the public’s right to access the meeting, such as livestreaming, video conferencing, or use of other technology resources.”

Guidance is available on the Open Records and Meetings page of the Attorney General’s website at https://attorneygeneral.nd.gov/open-records-meetings/open-meeting-requirements-during-covid-19-national-emergency.

Entertainment venues

The Bismarck Event Center and the Belle Mehus Auditorium in downtown Bismarck have closed to the public, following federal guidance that public gatherings not exceed 10 people.  

The Justin Moore concert scheduled for April 8 has been rescheduled for Friday, December 4. All tickets purchased for the original performance will be honored for the rescheduled date.

Information on the status of other events can be found at: http://bit.ly/BECEvents.

Members of the public can enter the Event Center only by appointment -- call the administrative line at 701-355-1370. The Event Center Box Office is closed.

Bismarck parks facilities

Bismarck Parks and Recreation facilities will remain closed another week.

The district announced earlier that facilities were shut down through Sunday. Officials have now extended that through Friday, March 27.

The district also is closing its administrative office. Staff will continue to report to work to assist people by phone, at 701-222-6455, email at bisparks@biparks.org, or the drop box outside the front doors.

Medicaid webinar set

The North Dakota Department of Human Services will hold a webinar on Friday to provide information and answer Medicaid-related questions pertaining to Medicaid services and COVID-19.

The webinar is 1-2 p.m. Central time. North Dakota Medicaid providers, advocacy organizations and other stakeholders are invited to participate.

The meeting will be available through Skype video conference at https://bit.ly/2IWIERp or by phone at 701-328-0950, passcode 564595380#. The meeting will be recorded and available for later viewing on the department’s website at www.nd.gov/dhs/info/covid-19/provider-q-a.html.

Lincoln restrictions

The city of Lincoln is closing the city office.

City staff will answer phones and reply to emails during normal business hours. People with payments or other items to drop off can do so at a silver drop box on Santee Road in front of the city office.

Phone numbers and email addresses for city staff can be found at: https://www.cityoflincolnnd.com/residents/index.php.

Social services changes

The Three Rivers Human Service Zone, which serves Morton, Grant and Sioux counties, is asking nonhealthy people to not enter offices in Mandan, Carson and Fort Yates.

Clients can access the online Social Services website at www.nd.gov/DHS to apply for services or report changes. They also can report changes by calling one of the offices.

All interviews and reviews regarding SNAP and TANF benefits will be conducted via phone call. Replacement EBT cards must be requested by telephone.

Mandan office clients can drop off applications and other required documentation at a drop box on the southwest corner of the Morton County Courthouse.

The Mandan office is at 701-667-3395, the Fort Yates office at 701-854-3821 and the Carson office at 701-622-3706. 

Bismarck library closes

Bismarck Veterans Memorial Library is closing to the public beginning Friday.

The library encourages patrons to access its digital resources. Overdue fines will not accrue while the library is shut down. The library earlier suspended library programs and meeting room usage.

Morton Mandan Public Library closed earlier this week. It also is waiving fines during the shutdown.

Grocery store special hours

SpartanNash is setting aside time twice a week in its stores including Dan's Supermarkets for older adults, pregnant women and others most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

The special hours are 7-9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The company is asking other store patrons to observe those hours and not shop at those times.

The stores also are taking precautions such as suspending service at self-serve areas including salad bars, soup bars and doughnut cases.

Hospital restrictions revised

CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck has made more changes related to the coronavirus outbreak.

St. A's has canceled all gatherings not directly related to patient care that are held inside or on the grounds of its facilities. This includes serving as the host site for support groups, community events, educational classes and tours.

Hours of operations for some services including gift shops and visitor food services also is being limited. The Human Performance Center gym is closed. Some vendor services, such as flower delivery, takeout food delivery and pharmaceutical sales is not being permitted. Regularly scheduled freight and shipping service deliveries continue as normal.

The hospital earlier restricted visitation.

North Dakota virus numbers

North Dakota has 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19: 11 in Burleigh County, four in Morton County, three in Ward County and one in Cass County. One person has been hospitalized. There have been no deaths.

The health department has tested 673 North Dakotans for the virus, with 654 coming back negative.

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