COVID-19 Response efforts expand under unified command

Gov. Doug Burgum convened members of the state’s COVID-19 Unified Command, which the governor activated March 13 as he declared a state of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus public health crisis. The Unified Command is led by State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte and the state’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann. Members include Cabinet leaders, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler and North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

Members discussed actions taken so far to prevent and slow the spread of coronavirus and how to continue and expand upon the efforts of the Department of Health’s Emergency Operations Center, which has been in place since January.

Burgum emphasized that while a state of emergency has been declared to remove hurdles and provide maximum flexibility in accessing state and federal resources, North Dakota remains in a “state of calm.” The state is taking a whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach to protecting the public and ensuring that citizens are well-informed with clear and accurate information from the state’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center.

For the most updated and timely information and updates related to COVID-19, visit the NDDoH website at www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Photo caption: From right to left, Gov. Doug Burgum, State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte, sign language interpreter Lindsey Solberg Herbel and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford practice social distancing while addressing an audience during the Governor's daily press briefing.

MITIGATION MATTERS: NDDES Secures $3.7 Million in FEMA Funding for Fargo Flood Mitigation Project

The N.D. Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) was notified this month that its efforts to secure funding to construct permanent flood protection around Fargo’s wastewater treatment plant were approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The $4.9 million project, of which $3.7 million will be provided by FEMA, was developed by the City of Fargo through an NDDES-assisted project application that was submitted under FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grant Program.

The wastewater treatment facility, located in north Fargo, will be protected up to the 500-year floodplain elevation through construction of a levee, floodwall and road raise. Once complete, it will ensure continuous wastewater services to more than 160,000 residents across Fargo, West Fargo, Oxbow and the surrounding communities.

“The approval for this project was the end result of successful collaboration between many different groups, including the City of Fargo, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and FEMA,” said Justin Messner, NDDES Recovery and Mitigation chief. “We encourage communities and local governments across the state to take advantage of the opportunities FEMA provides through its PDM and Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Programs. Our team has been very successful obtaining FEMA funds for mitigation projects across the state that will protect residents during natural disasters or hazards.”

Now that the Fargo project has been approved, the city will complete any remaining design work, bid the project and begin construction. NDDES will reimburse the city for any eligible project costs and monitor the project as it gets completed to ensure it complies with FEMA standards.

Remember to practice social distancing

Dr. Joan Connell, field medical doctor for the N.D. Department of Health, explains what social distancing is and how it can be used to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Small Business Administration declares economic disaster funds for North Dakota

The North Dakota Department of Commerce announced that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has declared an economic disaster in North Dakota in response to the recent novel coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis.

The declaration makes available Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for businesses suffering substantial economic injury due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Substantial economic injury means the business is unable to meet its obligations and pay its ordinary and necessary operating expenses. EIDLs provide the necessary working capital to help small businesses survive until normal operations resume after a disaster. The deadline for applying for EIDL funding is Dec. 21, 2020.

With the passage of the supplemental appropriation, the SBA was provided funding to distribute through their disaster relief program. These loans can be used for the following purposes.

  • Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid due to the disaster’s impact.
  • Up to $2 million per business
  • May be able to pay back over a 30-year term depending on borrower ability to repay
  • Applicants must not have credit readily available elsewhere
“This declaration allows access to federal funds to help those North Dakota businesses experiencing losses due to the novel coronavirus,” said Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer. “The Commerce Department will continue to work to find funding sources to mitigate the losses businesses are suffering in this uncertain time.”

Capitol Lighting Honors #aworldofhearts facebook campaign

The North Dakota Capitol building in Bismarck was lit up March 25 as part of the #aworldofhearts Facebook campaign that has developed a worldwide following since its launch in Bismarck.

Bismarck home childcare provider Mandy Gill created the campaign as a way of bringing people together for support during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis.

“It just kind of exploded. I really just wanted people to know that every single person in the world is going through the exact same thing right now,” Gill said. “Everybody is facing the exact same worries and the exact same fears. We’re all in this together.”

The south side of the Capitol was lit up at sunset March 25 in the shape of a heart and will remain lit until sunrise on Monday, March 30.

“In uncertain times, the one thing we can count on is the caring spirit of North Dakotans like Mandy Gill, who find uplifting ways to encourage neighbors and strangers in times of need,” said Gov. Doug Burgum. “North Dakotans continue to be #NDStrong and remain connected through social platforms or digital solutions while remaining #NDSmart and vigilant to keep their physical distance.”

Photo by Clint Fleckenstein, North Dakota Department of Health.