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nddes insights October 2020

ND Schools receive Cloth Masks To Fight COVID-19

State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said North Dakota’s public and nonpublic schools received shipments of cloth masks to help inhibit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, in partnership with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, the state Department of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided cloth masks for students and faculty.

North Dakota received almost 160,000 masks. The allocation was based on North Dakota’s number of students from low-income families. The emphasis was on first providing masks to students who come from low-income households, and/or who are at higher risk.

Gov. Doug Burgum announced in late September that students and adults in schools who have been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 do not have to quarantine, if both the close contact and the infected person were both wearing masks properly when they were in contact.

“Mask use among students, teachers, administrators and school support personnel not only promotes public health, it can reduce the number of quarantines necessary if there are close contacts with someone who is infected with the virus,” Baesler said.

Shipments of large masks, for use for adults and students in grades 7-12, were distributed in early October. Smaller masks, which are intended for students in grades K-6, were distributed a few weeks later.

The masks were sent to public school districts, which were responsible for sharing them with nonpublic schools in their communities.

NDDoH successfully resolves COVID-19 notification backlog, begins new case investigation changes

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) successfully resolved the backlog of notifications Oct. 22 for over 800 North Dakotans who tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier that week, the department addressed the backlog which was due to a recent sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and announced changes to the state’s contact tracing process to more quickly notify individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

“We appreciate the patience of North Dakotans and are grateful for the expertise and hard work of our case investigation team,” said Disease Control Director Kirby Kruger. “Case investigation and contact tracing are two tools, but what allows them to be effective is the active participation of individuals and communities in taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The NDDoH anticipates the change in the contact tracing process to be temporary and said they will be evaluating the effectiveness and resource need over the next several weeks and months.

As part of the new process, close contacts will no longer be contacted by public health officials; instead, positive individuals will be instructed to self-notify their close contacts. Individuals can visit the NDDoH website, where resources explain the recommended and required actions for both positive patients and close contacts.

Contact tracing for health care settings, K-12 schools and university systems is an exception and contact tracing will continue as usual.

The state is testing the process to deliver automated notifications to positive individuals. Currently, the system only delivers automated notifications to individuals with negative test results. Positive patients will still receive a follow-up call from a case investigator after their initial automated notification.

Individuals can be a part of the solution by taking simple steps like wearing a face covering, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and staying home when sick. For more information on North Dakota’s COVID-19 response, visit www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus or www.ndresponse.gov.

mitigation matters: Cyberattacks No. 1 hazard in North Dakota

This edition of "Mitigation Matters" was authored by M. Cole Baker, a student at North Dakota State University, who is pursuing a major in emergency management with a minor in sociology. He served as a contingency planner and an intern during March through August with NDDES. During his internship, Cole has worked in logistics and has worked on several projects with the agency’s Planning Section. Projects included developing a mitigation action tracker for use by the State Hazard Mitigation Team; assisting with two presidential disaster declarations; and conducting data analysis and research on trends in other states during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cyberattacks are the number one hazard we face in North Dakota; that is out of all the hazards we face in our day-to-day lives. Even more than common hazards, such as flooding and severe winter storms, cyberattacks hit the hardest, and they affect everyone. But what is a cyberattack and who is susceptible to it?

According to the State of North Dakota Enhanced Mitigation Mission Area Operations Plan (Enhanced Mitigation MAOP), a cyberattack is the attack or hijack of information technology infrastructure critical to the functions controlled by computer networks, such as: operating, financial, communications and trade systems. Any cyberattack that creates unrest, instability or negatively impacts confidence of citizens/consumers, can be considered cyber terrorism.

Everyone is susceptible to these kinds of attacks, ranging from large corporations down to the computer you have at home. That is why it is important to keep your systems safe and secure. One might ask, how would I go about doing that or how could someone gain access to my home or office network? A few examples are provided below.

  • Password phishing attacks: Emails are designed to look like they are from trusted vendors and users are prompted to enter their passwords to access the content from the email. The site the user is taken to saves the password the user provides, which attackers can use to access the real site and the user’s information.
  • Socially-engineered malware: A normally trusted site is compromised, and the attackers embed malware into the site. Users of the site are tricked into downloading malware onto their computers through a Trojan Horse.
  • Social media threats: Friend or application install requests are designed to mask malware or phishing attempts. Users who accept these requests are tricked into providing their email, downloading malware, or otherwise giving cyber attackers access to their computer and data.

These are just a few of the ways that people can gain access to information, but hope isn’t lost. Hundreds of people every day are working to mitigate against cyber threats. These threats are posed by hackers who would cause problems to our network infrastructure and would want to take your personal data.

Some of the things you can do now to protect yourself include keeping software up to date or locking down your privacy settings on your home computer and at the office. Every little bit helps when trying to mitigate against the hazards that are posed to you in your everyday life, especially while online.

Cyber Security Awareness Month was observed this past October. The overarching message of this year’s theme, ‘If you Connect it, Protect it,’ which emphasized the importance of keeping connected devices secure from cyber threats. Learn more by visiting defend.nd.gov, which was developed to provide information to help North Dakotans understand common threats, like phishing and how to defend themselves from cyber-attacks.

Jangula Receives 'patriot award' for military employee support

Miranda Jangula, shift supervisor at State Radio, this month was the recipient of the North Dakota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve's (ESGR) Patriot Award for her support to a military member who works on her dispatch crew.

The Patriot Award recognizes individual bosses or supervisors who make a special effort to support citizen warriors through measures that include flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families and granting leaves of absence if needed.

Miranda was nominated by Spc. Thea Jorgensen, a dispatcher with State Radio, who serves with the North Dakota National Guard. In Miranda's nomination letter for the award, Thea said, "Because of the intensity of the work we do in State Radio, our schedules are not the most flexible. We work 12 hour shifts and sometimes my National Guard schedule takes me away from my duties. Miranda has always rolled with everything including annual training dates, deployments, and COVID orders. I feel genuinely supported by Miranda and know that she understands and supports my commitment to the N.D. National Guard."

Miranda Jangula, left, displays the ESGR Patriot Award she received in October. She was presented the award for her support to Thea Jorgensen, who works on her dispatch crew at State Radio and is a member of the N.D. National Guard.

To further promote the importance of COVID etiquette (washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks), the state's Joint Information System recently began producing vignettes featuring North Dakotans affected by COVID-19. Above is the first video in the My COVID-19 Story series. It features Kayla Rath, who is a 23-year-old sergeant at the North Dakota Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation in Bismarck. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sept. 9 and, even though she's been considered "recovered" for weeks, is still feeling lingering effects. 

Thank you, first responders, for all you do to keep us safe! We especially want to recognize our State Radio dispatchers who always are there to answer the call and provide a sense of calm to those facing dire circumstances during an emergency.