Whether a high school student or a food service employee, numerous Twin Towns Area residents and workforce members are in unfamiliar territory.
Efforts to slow COVID-19, a strain of coronavirus, include the indefinite closure of North Dakota K-12 schools and the closure of restaurants, bars, recreation facilities, theaters and more to the public until at least Monday, April 6.
As of midday Friday, March 20, North Dakota has 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Eleven cases are reported in Burleigh County, followed by five in Morton County, three in Ward County and one in Cass County.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive order prohibiting dine-in restaurant services but permitting take-out, delivery, drive-through or off-sale services took effect at 12 p.m. Friday. While doing what they can for customers, restaurant staff are aware that it won’t be business as usual for awhile.
“You can still order by phone and it will be ready for a quick pickup,” said Dean Twidwell, owner and manager of the Wahpeton Deli & Eatery. “Our full menu is available. Our front parking spaces are completely open for pickup customers.”
Life under the executive order means a new way of doing things. The Wahpeton Deli was fully staffed as of Friday morning, but Twidwell said he doesn’t know what to expect.
“I’ve never been in this position before,” said Doe Rae Prante, co-owner and manager of Prante’s Fine Dining, Wahpeton. “The plans are going to change every day, I think.”
Prante’s is using Facebook to let customers know its current menu. The restaurant had a staff of 16.
“We’ve had to let them all go,” Prante said. “We’re just doing take out right now.”
Kimi Thimjon is manager of The Boiler Room, Wahpeton. She said customers have been supportive and sympathetic following the announcement of the restaurant restrictions.
“What we’re all taking from this is that we have to follow the procedure and precautions to ensure the safety of others,” Thimjon said. “I hope this is not a lengthy process. I hope that people will come back. It’s the not knowing that’s tough.”
The Boiler Room, which has also reduced its staff, is another of the local restaurants offering non-dine-in services for customers. Residents are advised to call restaurants, check social media and watch for exterior signage for additional information.
While the restaurants prepared for their new service model, Wahpeton High School students were clearing their lockers. Advised to take everything, they spoke with staff including counselor Jessica Gilsrud about immediate concerns such as whether or not they have internet access.
“Starting Monday, March 23, Wahpeton High School will be going to online learning until further notice,” the school stated. “Students in grades 9-12 should expect to spend about 2-3 hours every school day working on their course work.”
Times are flexible, the school stated, but will depend on teachers’ scheduled activities. The plan is to start slow and increase over time.
“Students are expected to check in on each class in Schoology every day,” the school stated.
Tanner Rabbithead is CEO of Circle of Nations, Wahpeton. All 87 students of the school for Native American youth were sent home Tuesday, March 17.
“We’re taking precautionary measures for our students, our staff and the community,” Rabbithead said. “Right now, we’re awaiting word from the governor’s office and the Bureau of Indian Education.”
As of Friday, Circle of Nations is not prepared for distance learning. Rabbithead explained that much of the student population is spread throughout the United States.
“We have students from as far as Texas and Salt Lake City,” he said. “Of our students, 33 are from North Dakota.”
Circle of Nations could request additional funds from the Bureau of Indian Education, Rabbithead said. In the meantime, he and the staff are taking care of immediate concerns.
“On Monday, we’re meeting with our counseling staff. We’re trying to do telehealth for our students in need. We want them to reach out and call our counselors and parent liaisons,” Rabbithead said.
By the time Circle of Nations sent its students home, the school had completed enough instruction hours to count for a full education year. The threshold is 900 hours, Rabbithead said. As of Tuesday, more than 913 hours had been completed.
“We did have our state testing planned for this week. We’re waiting to see if that will be waived,” Rabbithead said.
Residents who are self-quarantining or preparing to self-quarantine are advised to stay informed on COVID-19.
The disease has symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The North Dakota Department of Health said symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
“Individuals who think they may have COVID-19 but have minor symptoms should self-isolate at home,” the department stated. “Individuals seeking medical attention should call before they go in.”
There are also new guidelines about when to call 9-1-1 about COVID-19. These come from the National Emergency Number Association.
If a person is exhibiting emergency warning signs including a high fever, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, persistent chest pain and/or pressure, confusion and a bluish face or lips, they should call 9-1-1. If they are not, they are asked to not call 9-1-1.
Daily News will continue to follow this story.