FARGO — The mayors of Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead, along with the Cass County Commission, made emergency declarations Monday, March 16, regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

County Commission Chairman Chad Peterson said although there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 for miles from this area, the emergency declaration was needed to accept federal money for such things as equipment, overtime pay for workers and to assist hospitals and other facilities.

The commission passed a resolution saying county departments can take action to "limit the hardships and impacts" related to the virus.

The mayors separately declared emergencies in their respective cities. "We are all in this together, " said Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd.

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West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis wanted the public to know that Monday's event at the Cass County Courthouse was ceremonial, but that government agencies have been working together for weeks to prepare for "whatever" the future holds.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said the cities were working with Sanford Health and Essentia Health on plans "rooted in facts." He later said in a news release that Fargo Cass Public Health would activate a health department operations center to coordinate efforts among public and private organizations.

Mahoney said residents should practice good hygiene, stay home if sick and undertake social distancing. "We need this to happen to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus," he said.

Nonessential Cass County workers are allowed to stay home, especially with schools closed, but almost all county employees showed up for work anyway, County Administrator Robert Wilson said. The county is working on plans for staff to work remotely and to limit any travel, he said.

Peterson said the County Commission itself may have to meet remotely in the future.

It was announced Monday that libraries in Moorhead, Fargo and West Fargo would close Tuesday, March 17, until further notice. Also, there will be no events at the Fargodome or Fargo Civic Center for 30 days, most city meetings are suspended for 30 days and no water service terminations will occur for the next 30 days.

Fargo Municipal Court operations will continue and will be evaluated in the coming days. Jury trials in North Dakota state courts are postponed until at least April 24, though Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick said some hearings with smaller groups of people will still be held for now.

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