FARGO — Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and other area mayors are urging residents to "remain calm," saying they are working with public health officials on plans in case the novel coronavirus becomes a local problem.

The theme of a presentation leaders gave Wednesday, March 4, at the Fargo Cass Public Health office was "preparing, not panicking."

"We have full trust and confidence in our public health officials to respond to this potential threat," Mahoney said. "Our unified teams are preparing, not panicking for the coronavirus."

Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd said "each of our cities are committed to a full continuity of governmental services for our residents and visitors."

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Dr. Heidi Lako-Adamson, a medical director for multiple local agencies, said not much is known about the virus but that it's easily spread and most dangerous to those over age 80 and those with chronic diseases. So far, there have been no confirmed cases in the Dakotas or Minnesota.

She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to live their lives as "business as usual" and that, at this time, people locally shouldn't be afraid to go to public gatherings.

If people are feeling ill with respiratory problems, though, she said they should "stay home." People with the virus can have mild or no symptoms at all, but in the worst cases there can be respiratory problems such as pneumonia, the doctor said.

The incubation period is two to 10 days, but can be as long as 14 days so that's why some people are quarantined for that long.

Lako-Adamson said the young and healthy have only a 1% chance of dying from the virus, but for the elderly and those with chronic diseases, the chance climbs to 15-20%. "Those people should take higher precautions," she said.

North Dakota Department of Health Epidemiologist Brenton Nesemeier told the gathering that health officials have monitored 17 patients in the state and that no evidence of coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been detected. He said the remaining two people being monitored who returned from visits to China should be done with monitoring in the next few days.

In a news release Wednesday, the department asked that travelers returning from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, countries that have struggled to contain the virus, should stay home for 14 days to self-monitor for the virus.

The mayors said they want residents to know that they are working together with private and public schools, hospitals, Hector International Airport, public health agencies, emergency management staff and state officials on preparing plans.

West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis added that they also want the business community to be involved in case of disruptions to their operations caused by supply shortages or if employees become ill and staffing becomes a problem.

Desi Fleming, director of Fargo Cass Public Health, said the CDC recommends that people without symptoms should not buy face masks as they should only be worn by people who are sick or experiencing symptoms.

Tips to avoid coronavirus

  • Washing hands is the most important precaution. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer should have 60% alcohol content to be effective.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or into your elbow.
  • Stay home if sick and don't return to work until feeling better.
  • Avoid close contact with people that appear sick.
  • Don't touch nose, mouth or eyes if possible.
  • Disinfect doorknobs and other hard surfaces with cleaning products.
  • Get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods.
  • Manage stress.

Source: Fargo Cass Public Health