North Dakota’s COVID-19 emergency declaration is set to expire Friday, April 30, just over a month until Wahpeton High School students are expected to graduate.
The time between the end of the emergency declaration and the end of the 2020-2021 education year was on many minds at a Monday, April 26 Wahpeton School Board meeting. In the absence of guidelines from the state, board directors discussed and set policies for the last weeks of school.
With a 6-2 vote, Wahpeton Public Schools will continue requiring masks in its four buildings as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Dissenting votes came from directors Mike Hauschild and Art Nelson and followed discussion where directors said they have received both positive and negative feedback from parents about mask wearing. A subsequent 8-0 vote approved continuing contract tracing in the district following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Board Director Jake Kubela was absent from Monday’s meeting.
It was decided to leave the management of event capacity to building principals. Wahpeton High Schools’ next month is expected to include sporting events, concerts and graduation ceremonies.
The principals’ decisions will be based on the most current information including the progress and decline of local COVID-19 cases, Wahpeton Superintendent Rick Jacobson said Tuesday, April 27. The board’s decision allows for flexibility.
“If the numbers hold the way they are, we will try to have an normal graduation with full capacity,” Jacobson said. “We may recommend that masks be worn.”
Wahpeton High School Principal Ned Clooten is expected to determine a policy for the graduation ceremony during the week of Monday, May 3. Daily News will provide updates as they are available.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday its newest guidance for mask wearing.
“Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks outdoors if they’re walking, running, hiking or biking alone; with members of their household; or if they attend small outdoor gatherings,” the New York Times reported.
While Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., is rescinding his emergency declaration, it does not change that a pandemic still exists and COVID-19 is a threat to the community. That’s according to Kayla Carlson, public health director in Richland County, North Dakota.
“Since early March, Richland County has continued to see a higher number of cases,” Carlson said Tuesday. “Today’s daily positivity rate is 13.79 percent and since early March, has remained over 5 percent most days.”
The Richland County Health Department will host a Thursday, April 29 clinic to distribute doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. It will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Heritage Square, downtown Wahpeton. Registration can be made by visiting www.ndvax.org.
“Testing will continue and is encouraged,” according to guidance Carlson shared Tuesday. “Vaccines are encouraged and are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19.
The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) continues to strongly recommend the public continue to use prevention strategies as outlined by the CDC. They include:
• universal and correct use of masks
• physical distancing
• hand washing and following respiratory etiquette
• cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities
• utilizing contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine
“Universal and correct use of masks will reduce the number of those who need to quarantine if exposed,” NDDoH stated.
Executive orders issued during North Dakota’s emergency period will expire Friday, April 30. The state’s Smart Restart plan and color levels will be discontinued at that time. NDDoH will continue to prove information on coronavirus at its website.
“Usually, when an emergency declaration ends, the involvement of emergency services and the National Guard also ends,” the guidance stated. “However, the National Guard is a critical component of COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, and they will continue to serve as requested by Governor Burgum.”