COVID-19 update -- case numbers, child care, stimulus package | Prairie Public Broadcasting

COVID-19 update -- case numbers, child care, stimulus package

Mar 24, 2020

Three more positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state of North Dakota, bringing the state’s new total to 33.

Gov. Doug Burgum said one is a woman in her 30s from Burleigh County. Another is a Walsh County man in his 70s. The third positive case is from Cass County, and details on that case are still pending.

Burgum said to date about 1,440 patients in North Dakota have been tested for COVID-19. Tests have been collected from 48 out of 53 counties. He said the low number of positive tests over the weekend may be due to some patients not getting to a facility during weekend hours, but as of now there are adequate testing supplies in the state.

Burgum said criteria to be tested includes – anyone with symptoms who has been in contact with a confirmed positive case, has traveled to a “hot zone,” or is a medical worker who has been in contact with patients with symptoms. And he said anyone wishing to be tested should call their providers before going in.

Burgum said efforts to encourage “social distancing” and staying home is put forth in order to “flatten the curve” of patients entering the health care system to be treated for COVID-19. He said he recognizes the measures being taken are causing hardship – but the state is likely benefitting from them already.

Stimulus package

As Congress works on economic stimulus legislation, Burgum said he has thoughts about what should be in it. Burgum is suggesting money toward unemployment. He said that could mean changing the benefit ratios.

"Instead of paying someone 75 percent of their pay, you might be paying 100 percent," Burgum said. "That would help support the economy in terms of maintaining incomes, maintaining people's ability to pay a mortgage, maintain consumer demand and all the things that could help support bringing our economy back quickly."

Another suggestion would be to give block grants to the states.

"Instead of the federal government sitting around and arguing over all the policy approaches on how to spend a trillion dollars, send out a check to states, and the states could figure out where they need it," Burgum said. "Each state's needs are going to be different."

Burgum said he believes on block grants, there is unanimity among the governors.

Child care

Burgum said a “rapid planning process” has been launched to ensure child care will continue to be available as the state deals with the COVID-19 crisis. He told reporters this has three objectives.

"One is to provide child care for essential worker households," Burgum said. "Number two is to protect the children and families of child care workers. And, importantly, we want to sustain the child care sector as an industry that's essential to every business in our economy."

Burgum said it could mean modified operating practices for day cares – and it may include hiring more workers.

"If we do that, then we believe there may be a role and responsibility to consider state financial support for that," Burgum said.

The proposal will be rolled out Thursday, with implementation next week.

Standardized Testing

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler said she has asked the federal Department of Education for a waiver on giving standardized tests.

"Teachers and schools have worked hard all year to ensure students are learning the required elements," Baesler told reporters. "They will continue to do so. But we have determined that testing this year, under these circumstances, would not only yield unreliable data, but would also place a heavy psychological burden on students and teachers."

Baesler told reporters educators instead are focused on finding alternative delivery systems for K-12 students, as school buildings remain closed.