Gov. Doug Burgum today released modified operating practices and an emergency grant program for child care providers to help them through the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that child care services are available for health, safety and other lifeline workers. The governor also signed an executive order giving counties the option of mail ballot-only elections to protect public health during the coronavirus emergency.

Child care initiative released

The child care initiative is the result of a rapid planning process that began last weekend and involved the Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Public Instruction and the Governor’s Office with input from child care providers and other stakeholders.

“Access to child care is essential for health care professionals, first responders and other lifeline households during this crisis. Without it, our ability to meet basic health and safety needs will be severely constrained, which puts us all at risk,” DHS Executive Director Chris Jones said. “These measures announced today will help sustain the child care sector through this crisis and ensure it has the capacity we need when our economy gets back on track.”

The planning process had three objectives:

  • Protect the health of children, families and child care workers;
  • Provide child care for health, safety and other lifeline worker households; and
  • Help sustain the child care sector during the emergency and recovery,

The final initiative has three key elements:

  • Guidance on how child care providers can continue to safely serve children through modified operating practices. This includes precautions such as a limit of 10 people per room, a screening process for access to the provider and guidelines for meals and playtime.
  • A Child Care Emergency Operating Grant to cover extra operating costs associated with the modified practices and to sustain vital child care services now and during the COVID-19 recovery. These grants will be available to all child care providers licensed by the state who agree to prioritize children of health, safety and other lifeline households.
  • Added flexibility to allow school districts to help care for children in grades K-5 whose parents work in vital health, safety and lifeline services. The governor will be amending an earlier executive order to allow this type of child access to schools.

For additional details, see the Provider Resources section on the DHS website at http://www.nd.gov/dhs/info/covid-19/index.html.

Election flexibility provided

Today’s executive order was developed in collaboration with Secretary of State Al Jaeger and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem with input from North Dakota county auditors. The order ensures every eligible North Dakota voter can cast a ballot in June, while protecting the health and safety of voters and poll workers.

The order waives the requirement that counties must provide at least one physical polling location on primary election day. This will give counties the flexibility and local control to conduct the June 9 primary election by mail ballot only – if the county chooses to do so. Currently, 33 counties offer mail ballot voting in addition to the physical polling locations required by law. The state’s 20 other counties also are eligible to conduct mail ballot voting.

“All North Dakota citizens should be able to exercise their right to vote without risking their health,” Burgum said. “We’re also looking out for the safety and well-being of our poll workers, including many retirees who may have greater vulnerability to COVID-19.”

The North Dakota Department of Health today confirmed 13 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 58 confirmed cases. Five new cases were confirmed today in Burleigh County, three in Stark County, two in Cass County and one each in McIntosh, McHenry and Ward counties. Eleven individuals have been hospitalized.

A total of 2,261 tests have been completed, with test samples coming from 51 of the state’s 53 counties.