COVID-19 Social Distancing

As panic spreads amongst consumers across the nation, residents within Cavalier County and surrounding area will soon feel the full effects. It can be seen locally already as supply for certain products becomes limited and restrictions begin being implemented for certain services.

Essential businesses, government, and healthcare facilities that are needed for the functioning of the community have already begun implementing measures to safeguard staff and customers. The Cavalier County Republican will provide these updates to readers as we are able.

Those most at risk to this virus are the elderly - those over 65. The medical care facilities of Osnabrock Community Living Center (OCLC) and Maple Manor Care Center (MMCC) have already gone into lockdown and will not be allowing visitors access to residents. Families are asked not to visit their loved ones at the centers but are encouraged to call, send letters, and both facilities are working on providing families and residents a means to see their family's faces through video chatting. Activities have been limited at MMCC to strictly one-on-one with eating, and interaction of residents is limited. OCLC and MMCC are testing staff daily to ensure the safety of the residents.

“We are following, of course, the North Dakota Department of Health, Governor Burgum’s, and CDC’s guidelines on what to do in this instance,” Connie Hankinson, MMCC director, said. “Trying to keep things calm, cause we don’t know when and if there will ever be anything in Cavalier County. We are very vigilant about trying to protect the residents and staff at this point."

Cavalier County Memorial Hospital and Clinic is following the CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 and have closed the clinic to walk-in visits at this time. CCMH CEO Jeff Stanley shared that all visits must be conducted via appointment, and visitors are being discouraged. If patients come with someone, that person will be asked to remain in the vehicle unless they are necessary to assist the patient with their visit.

“We don’t want people waiting in the lobby that are not waiting for their own appointment,” CCMH Chief Nursing Officer Jamie Nienhaus said.

CCMH’s Chief Operating Officer Darla Roder explained that all patients will be asked questions prior to their appointment such as: do you have a cough, do you have a fever, where have you traveled recently? CCMH administrators provided the following advice to the community.

“Limit your exposure to social media. A lot of what is on social media is not helpful. It may cause you to be either flippant about this or cause you to panic about this, and we don’t think either of those things are useful. You want information about COVID-19? The CDC and the North Dakota Department of Health have wonderful resources,” they stated.

In addition, CCMH says to use common sense during this time: wash hands, stay out of crowds, social distancing such as waiting in line- stay six feet away from others, if you don’t feel well- stay home. Do not be flippant about the virus as many may not become critically ill from COVID-19, but the chances of giving it to someone who will are increased for the area due to the high concentration of vulnerable population of the older community.

“These are the same things that we’ve been telling people and hearing from public service announcements for weeks, and it’s the stuff that will work. This virus seems to be fairly contagious so you are pretty likely to get it if you get in contact with somebody who has it,” they said.

CCMH is in preparation mode with the goal of setting the number of people who may become ill from this over an extended period of time. Staff have been trained and supplies are being ensured to be available.

“I don’t think we need to panic over it; I think we are managing our resources well. We are trying to flatten the curve.”

At Langdon Community Drug, owner and head pharmacist Lyle Lutman shared that the pharmacy is preparing and has begun asking customers who are at high risk to call in their prescriptions and the pharmacy will deliver or mail them to them. The staff are keeping the store as sanitary as possible.

“There hasn’t been a reported case here yet, but it’s just a matter of time. I don’t know when it’s going to hit, but it will hit and the less contact that we have the safer we are all going to be,” Lutman said.

Langdon Community Drug has not closed but is working on a plan should that be necessary in the future. Lutman shared that this will be a last resort as the pharmacy is essential to the health of the community.

“I think what would help is if the community would just take heed to this and stay home. It’s highly contagious, and there is no vaccine for it. The elderly especially are vulnerable to it, and not only the elderly, but anybody that has any chronic medical conditions regardless of what your age is,” Lutman said.

At the government level, the City of Langdon encourages residents to stay home if at all possible and practice good hygiene. Water systems play a vital role in public health, and the ND Department of Environment Quality has assisted the city in creating measures for the systems to ensure seamless operations during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Public water systems are expected to continue to monitor water quality and provide sample results to regulators during the COVID-19 epidemic.

“With the limit supply of toilet paper we do not want residents to be putting other items such as paper towels or tissue down the drains. As this will cause blockage and lift stations to back up,” Langdon City Auditor RoxAnne Hoffarth said. “Please do not travel if you don’t have too. Please stay home.”

The Langdon City Commission has canceled their next meeting that was to be held on March 23. The commissioners will decide how to proceed closer to the next meeting date. If any special meetings need to be held the City will do so with proper notification.

The Cavalier County Courthouse has closed its doors to the general public and has instituted a 'by appointment only' policy to protect both the county staff and the public. Those entering the courthouse will be screened with a series of questions like those being used at CCMH.

Commission meetings will still be conducted but with shortened agendas and changes to attendance protocols. Cavalier County Commission Chair Nick Moser explained that the county has created a Facebook page, “Cavalier County, ND”, to enable them to live-stream the meetings for those who wish to view them.

Other essential businesses to the community such as the grocery store, power companies, United Communications, Midco, and area banks are also observing safety procedures. Listed below are the statements and information from each.

Leever’s grocery store will continue to operate as normal. General Manager Bill Mack explained that there are no special times for shopping but for the elderly customers the store is working with Cavalier County Senior Meals and Transit to deliver to those most at risk.

“Please don’t continue panic buying. There is going to be items that will not be available temporarily just due to the panic buying, but it’s not because there is any shortages of any products within the United States. As products become available again, we will have them as we have always had,” Mack stated.

Montana-Dakota Utilities’s priority is always the safety and health of their employees, their customers and the public. Certain measures to help protect their employees from exposure to COVID-19 and to curb the potential spread of the virus in customer homes and facilities has been enacted by MDU. In that regard, Montana-Dakota has taken measurable actions to help their customers:

“We will not be disconnecting customers for nonpayment during this time. We have filed requests with our regulatory commissions for a waiver that allows the company to waive late fees. And, as always, we will work with customers on payment plan options,” Mark Hanson of MDU said.

Ottertail Power Company will continue to maintain reliable electric service to the region. They have customized their preparedness plans to address needs specific to this pandemic such as increased cleaning protocols, limited access to restricted areas, and management is considering function-specific contingency plans. As always, Ottertail Power Company will continue to work individually with customers to address any specific needs or requests they might have.

“As we all face uncertainties around COVID-19, the health and safety of our employees, customers, and communities continues to be our primary concern. We appreciate our region’s confidence in us as we navigate this pandemic and reliably operate our generating facilities, power lines, and other critical functions needed to produce and deliver electricity,” Stephanie Hoff, Public Relations Director at Ottertail, said.

Cavalier Rural Electric Cooperative is operating at normal business hours at time of print. Lineman are working as normal and will continue to do maintenance. The board of directors have a regular meeting scheduled for later this month.

"We encourage you to use our drop box for payments,” Marty Tetrault of REA said.

During this time having access to communications is critical, and the two suppliers of that service have already put measures in place to make sure they can continue to provide. At United Communications, Perry Oster, General Manager/CEO, explained that service will not be interrupted. They have already begun to reduce staff presence at their locations, and for service calls, customers will be asked the same questions as other facilities to ensure that health is put first. Oster explained that they have already begun working with government, health facilities, and the schools to assist as they can. In regards to customers possibly being unable to pay, Oster stated that they will work with businesses and residential customers and that late fees will be waived.

“Everybody stay smart and practice your social distancing,” Oster said.

Midco, which is the other communications supplier in the area, released the following statement. The company is following public health guidelines and practicing social distancing. The company also assures their customers that they have the capacity to handle increased network traffic with more people online at home during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the next 60 days, we won’t disconnect service if a customer is unable to pay, and we will waive late fees for customers having economic challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. We encourage customers to contact us to discuss your individual situation, because we know they vary for homes and small businesses. We will listen to your needs and work with you to make arrangements., Midco stated on their website released March 16.

Financial institutions in the area have taken precautions with many closing their lobbies to appointment only. Farmers and Merchants State Bank in Langdon has closed their lobby to walk-in traffic but can still assist their customers through alternative methods such as telephone, the drive-up window and 2nd lane tube, internet banking and bill pay services. In addition, FM Bank announced that ATM for cash withdrawals is still available at FM and that ATM fees charged to FM accounts if you use it at another ATM will be waived until further notice.

“Our decision to close our lobby to walk-in traffic was made with the health of our customers, staff members and the community in mind and in an effort to assist in slowing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The best way to ensure we can continue to provide essential banking services to our customers is by keeping our staff members healthy. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through these difficult times,” Chalmer Dettler, President of FM Bank, said.

At Choice Bank in Langdon, President Todd Borchardt explained that their lobby is closed as well to walk in traffic but that the drive and walk up windows are open during regular business hours. Other financial business is still possible through alternative methods as well.

U.S. Bank in Langdon stated that they have not limited access to the building but have reduced their hours from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This was given at time of print and is subject to change.

“We are trying to be proactive rather than reactive and do our part to keep this thing maintained,” Borchardt said. “There is a lot of concern, obviously from small business owners, and we are concerned about the staff, too, with the schools taking the caution that they are taking. At this point we are running on pretty limited staff and that’s okay. That’s by design right now and just taking it day by day.”

Horizon Financial in Munich shared that as the details of COVID-19 evolve, Horizon Financial Bank management has been monitoring the situation and taking preventative measures to protect HFB employees, customers and the communities it serves. The bank is taking these measures seriously and has temporarily reduced hours and access.

Be sure to do your part in flattening the curve of COVID-19. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can. Practice social distancing.

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