COVID-19 projected to severely impact the City of Grand Forks


COVID-19 has dominated the news lately and continued to do so at the Grand Forks City Council meeting Monday.

Grand Forks City leaders heard a presentation from Grand Forks Public Health Director Debbie Swanson at their regular meeting in regard to the pandemic.

City Council members learned that 3,843 tests have been conducted in Grand Forks County, with 269 of them resulting in a positive COVID-19 case. The 69 positive cases account for 22 percent of all North Dakota cases. In addition, 13 cases have been reported in long-term care centers in Grand Forks County.

“This is an area of significant concern for us,” Swanson told the Council. “Especially when you think of the fact that most of the deaths have been in people over 70 years of age.”

Swanson says the Grand Forks Public Health team remains busy helping with the contact tracing efforts across North Dakota, along with maintaining a presence on the local Joint Information Center and coordinating with the North Dakota Department of Human Services on their work to quarantine and isolate of individuals experiencing homelessness.

10 members of the Grand Forks Public Health team currently assist the state with contact tracing.  The department has followed 101 positive cases and 262 close contacts.

The City has estimated a city-wide revenue decline of more than $12.7 million dollars due to COVID-19. In addition, the City has expense cuts of more than $9.7 million. Storstad says the city has delayed construction projects, decreased capital expenditures, assessed general operating expenses and fuel cost savings, along with wages and benefits. In addition, reductions of $2.8 million in city-wide use of cash are planned.

“We will be monitoring this,” Grand Forks City Auditor Maureen Storstad said. “We will continue to monitor this as more information becomes available. I cannot stress that enough.”

In addition, Tangee Bouvette, Human Resources Director for the City of Grand Forks, told the council that, in March, Mayor Michael Brown placed a travel ban and reduced other expenses, including limiting overtime.

Bouvette says the City has implemented a “soft freeze” on hiring upon attrition; the City has also placed a hold on filling vacant positions yet to be filled, which equals to eight positions. Three promotions are on hold, and seasonal and internship positions have been reduced by 15 to 20 positions, Bouvette said.

“We are decreasing costs where we can, without limiting services,” she said. “Our service employees have continued to service the public throughout this pandemic.”