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Tribune editorial: Firefighters from ND aid La. recovery

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This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.


Fifteen firefighters and a public works employee from North Dakota are helping with recovery efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida. The group includes two from the Bismarck Rural Fire Department who left for Baton Rouge last Wednesday. Others are from Williston and Dickinson. Under an Emergency Management Assistance Compact approved by Gov. Doug Burgum, North Dakota can send personnel, equipment and commodities to aid recovery efforts in other states. It’s an important partnership that has also brought assistance to North Dakota during emergencies. North Dakota also sent resources and personnel to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. The team is expected to return home in late September.


It’s unfortunate that the Burleigh County Commission rejected a proposal to offer county employees a paid day off as incentive to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Department heads including Burleigh County Sheriff Kelly Leben advocated for the incentive idea to reduce employee absences. From June 2020 to June 2021, 118 employees of the sheriff’s department missed work because they had COVID-19 or they were close contacts. The absences ranged from one to 48 days. People who are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms do not have to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus, according to North Dakota Department of Health guidance. It’s unknown if the incentive would have changed people’s minds about the vaccine, but it was worth a try if it preserves essential county services and prevents employee burnout.


Improvements are in store for the International Peace Garden after Manitoba officials announced last week the province will provide $7.5 million in a match with North Dakota. The attraction on the U.S.-Canada border plans to open a children’s natural play park and expand its conservatory. North Dakota’s funding includes $2 million of one-time funding and a loan of up to $3 million from the Bank of North Dakota, authorized by the 2019 Legislature, as well as $3 million in federal coronavirus aid.


Hospital capacity is again a concern in North Dakota as the delta variant contributes to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The state ranks 42nd in the country in vaccination rates, The Associated Press reported. State health officials said last week one in every 180 vaccinated people test positive for COVID-19 while one in 16 unvaccinated people test positive. Burgum held his first coronavirus press briefing in five months last week, urging the public to get vaccinated. The state is seeing patients in hospitals who are younger and healthier, and doctors are worried about capacity for pediatric intensive care.


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