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Posted on June 1, 2020 at 10:29 AM by Bryan Obenchain
As we continue to navigate through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and approach the anniversary of the 2011 flood, I can’t help but look back and draw parallels between two disasters that have greatly affected and impacted our community. There are similarities - and a sharp contrast.
To reflect for a moment; by June 30, 2011, temporary levees in Minot had been built, raised, and raised again to fend off the rising Souris River. The valley was in the second mandatory evacuation. The valley and the entire city were watching, waiting, and praying. There were weeks of calm and a hope that we had staved off disaster. Then, record rain fell in the basin north of Minot that would flood and devastate the community. Despite some claims that the volume of water could be managed, it could not be. There was no managing Mother Nature’s wrath; we could only get out of her way.
In some respects, for Minot, COVID-19 has emerged on a similar path. We have been preparing. We have been sacrificing. We have been patient. Now, we are again nearing June 30. What will come next in this new battle? The difference, I hope, is that this time, the power is in our hands to have some control over our destiny, and the effects of COVID-19 on our community.
Locally and statewide, we are in something of a lull with infection numbers. We cannot understate the substantial sacrifice of businesses and the people in the community who have suffered economic loss. We cannot understate the people who have suffered through this illness. We cannot forget the friends and family \we have lost in Minot, in North Dakota, and across the nation to this disease. We can, however, do our best to make sure it wasn’t in vain.
As the state walks down the ND Smart Restart path, I hope and pray that we do not undo the sacrifices that have been made. Psychologically and economically, we need to overcome this disease. We need to reconnect with each other and regain what has been lost. Doing so, we also need to be vigilant and smart. Taking for granted that the worst is over could be a catastrophic mistake. Letting our guard down could very well realign the paths from 2011 to 2020.
What we don’t know is how many in the community are asymptomatic with COVID-19. Common sense tells us that the disease doesn’t affect those carriers. It’s those at high risk, with underlying health conditions, who come in contact with asymptomatic or symptomatic carriers that face the most serious threat. The death toll numbers in North Dakota show exactly that.
We combat this disease by practicing good hygiene, washing our hands, staying at home and away from people when we are sick, and wearing a facemask when we are in close proximity to people outside of our household. Patience and understanding cannot be understated. If someone chooses to wear a facemask, that is their choice to protect others. If a business chooses to adjust its business model to protect employees and patrons, it is a choice based on health and risk. It is also your choice not to wear a mask or not to alter your daily activities. There is no local law against people gathering in close proximity, although the state has outlined recommendations for social gatherings.
Posted on May 15, 2020 at 11:00 AM by Bryan Obenchain
The state of North Dakota has begun the deliberate and intentional process of reopening businesses through the North Dakota Smart Restart effort, providing businesses with guidelines for opening to their customers while following recommendations from health care experts.
In Minot, that process is also under way. Many businesses, including bars and restaurants, are working to follow the guidelines while at the same time safely welcoming customers back into their establishments. Not all businesses have chosen to reopen their doors yet, while others have slowly begun the process, with significant changes to their former operations. Every business owner must make these decisions in the best interest of their particular business; no two situations are the same. What works for one business may not be practical for another.
Much like private businesses, the City of Minot is planning for the reopening of buildings to the public and to allow public attendance at City Council and Planning Commission meetings. I am expecting those plans to be released in the very near future. Rest assured, when the City does begin to reopen, the process will be deliberate and will follow all guidelines from the governor’s office as well as health care recommendations.
One change that will be happening on Monday is the reopening of the Minot Municipal Court, which will return to holding scheduled court proceedings, albeit with noticeable and necessary changes. As outlined in this past week’s COVID-19 press conference, the layout of the court located inside the west side of the Municipal Auditorium has been changed to account for proper social distancing and other health recommendations. Anyone who needs to attend a court hearing should attend alone, wear a facemask or some other kind of face covering, and use the hand sanitizer stations located both in the hallway and in the courtroom. You can read more at www.minotnd.org/news.
Another change taking place this month concerns the daycare operation that was established to provide services to essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including first responders, health care workers, and others. Since the service began as a partnership between the City of Minot, Minot Public Schools, Ward County, Trinity Health, First District Health Unit, and The Learning Tree, the plan was to end the daycare service at the conclusion of the public school year, which happens May 20. The daycare has been a great success, and stands as an example of what can be accomplished when everyone involved works together for the betterment of our entire community. Having this daycare service available allowed essential workers to focus on serving and protecting our community, knowing that their children were being taken care of in a safe, reliable setting. Kudos to everyone who was involved in creating and providing this necessary service. The City of Minot is proud to have played a role in this project.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 issues, spring in North Dakota means construction season. Our engineers are out in the field doing what they do – overseeing projects and meeting with construction professionals, albeit in different ways due to social distancing guidelines. Work on flood protection continues, as does the expansion of the Minot Water Treatment Plant, the Minot Public Library’s protective facelift, and other projects. In addition, our City crews are out cleaning Minot’s streets and repairing potholes. City properties are being mowed and maintained. There are projects and ongoing maintenance duties that need to be handled in a timely manner, and our crews are on the job – even as they take extra precautions because of the ongoing pandemic. You can find more information about construction projects at www.minotnd.org/projects.
The discussion surrounding the methods of reopening both private businesses and government entities in this time of a global pandemic is complicated. Yes, businesses, schools, churches, and other organizations need to return to some semblance of normalcy to continue to serve our community and to ensure their long-term viability and success. But it must be done with care, and it must be done with purpose.
Much of the discussion centers on personal responsibility, as it should. If you feel comfortable going out to support local businesses, I’d encourage you to do it. If you aren’t quite ready to do that yet, that’s perfectly fine; it’s your choice. But, whatever you decide, please continue to follow the social distancing guidelines, wash your hands often, and stay home if you don’t feel well. If you do decide to visit stores and restaurants, wear a facemask for your own protection and to help protect your family, friends, and neighbors. The growth rate of positive COVID-19 cases in Ward County has been a slow one, which means what we’ve all been doing is working. Let’s continue to be smart about restarting our community.
Posted on May 4, 2020 at 8:20 AM by Bryan Obenchain
Gov. Doug Burgum’s ND Smart Restart allowed businesses across the state to begin the process of reopening late last week during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s guidelines also provide opportunities for businesses and individuals to continue to make choices that are best for them.
At the City of Minot, we’re taking a cautious approach by extending many of the changes that have been in place for the past few weeks. Our public buildings remain closed, and we’ll maintain the current temporary system of not allowing members of the public at meetings. We encourage the public to keep submitting comments and information through an online portal at minotnd.org and to watch our meetings on the City’s Facebook page, YouTube channel, and on local cable channel 19. Our City Council chambers have been rearranged to account for proper social distancing, so we’re prepared to handle more people when it’s safe and responsible to do that.
In the coming days, City department heads and other officials will work together to craft a reopening plan for the City that makes sense for our employees and members of the public. The health and well-being of everyone remains our top priority, and we believe taking a slow, cautious, and common sense approach to reopening is the best option for everyone.
If you own a small business, the governor’s guidelines allow you to reopen, but you are not mandated to do so. There will be business owners who choose to hold off on opening their doors again, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it will be difficult for some businesses to have enough employees available, or maybe a business owner simply isn’t yet ready to have their employees interact with the public yet. There is no wrong answer; as always, business owners must do what they believe is best for their business.
As a consumer, you also have choices to make. Certainly, we want our residents and visitors to support local businesses, but if you do not feel comfortable yet venturing out in public to a restaurant, bar, or other business that’s recently reopened, that’s your choice. You can continue to do what you’ve been doing – stay home as much as possible and avoid large crowds. I strongly recommend supporting local businesses in a safe and responsible manner. As more businesses reopen, you will have a greater opportunity to do just that.
Here in Ward County, our number of positive cases remains low compared to other counties with large populations, and for that we must give credit to all of you. Clearly, we’re doing something right when it comes to social distancing and following recommendations of health professionals. Ward County ranks third in the number of tests in North Dakota, and despite our county having one of the earliest positive cases, our numbers have not dramatically spread in recent weeks. That’s obviously good news, and it’s a trend we want to see continue.
I would encourage you to continue following the advice of health care professionals. Stay home if you feel sick. If you do go out in public, practice good social distancing and stay six feet away from others who aren’t part of your immediate family. Use hand sanitizer, and wash your hands often. If you feel the need, wear a mask when you’re out in public; you’ll help protect yourself and others from potentially spreading the COVID-19 virus.
The recommendations and guidelines to help contain the virus spread aren’t really complicated, and we’ve seen that good things happen when we follow them. ND Smart is more than just a catchy phrase the governor likes to use – it is accurate. We’ve been smart up to this point, and that has helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state. Let’s all be smart and continue to make good decisions that are not only in our own best interests, but decisions that are good for our family, friends, and neighbors, too.
Sincerely, City Hall
You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.