5 things to know today: Churches reopening, Essentia layoffs, Jail infections, School board candidates, Park board ideas
1. Local church reopening plans may defy Minnesota restrictions
This Sunday, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Moorhead plans to hold a parking lot worship service, a change from its recent practice of recording worship services for viewing on YouTube.
After Sunday, however, the church will have some decisions to make, as the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in Minnesota, which Our Redeemer is a part of, have issued protocols to guide congregations eager to return to in-church services.
Those protocols, effective Tuesday, May 26, limit in-church attendance to one-third the seating capacity of the building, which could put congregations at odds with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's peacetime emergency declaration and its 10-person cap on church attendance as a pandemic safety measure.
Read more from The Forum's Dave Olson
2. Essentia lays off 900, including 178 in Fargo region, in response to revenue losses from coronavirus crisis
Essentia Health will lay off about 900 employees — including 178 in its Fargo region — to bring expenses in line with revenues that have plunged $100 million because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The cuts, announced Thursday, May 21, represent about 6% of Essentia’s workforce. Essentia’s west region, with its headquarters in Fargo, will absorb about a fifth of the cuts.
Positions eliminated include 148 in administrative services such as finance or human resources and 30 others dispersed throughout the west region, which includes Fargo, West Fargo, Jamestown and Wahpeton in North Dakota as well as Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Ada and Fosston in Minnesota.
“These layoffs are almost exclusively in nonclinical areas,” said Dr. William Heegard, president of Essentia’s west region. Essentia is preserving its ability to serve patients, Heegard said, including handling a surge of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Read more from The Forum's Patrick Springer
3. 5 Cass County Jail staff, 6 inmates test positive for virus
Six inmates and five employees of the Cass County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19.
At the jail’s request, the North Dakota National Guard and the Red River Valley COVID-19 Task Force tested 252 individuals, including 156 inmates, for coronavirus on Tuesday, May 19.
The staff and inmates who tested positive were asymptomatic, Sheriff Jesse Jahner said Thursday, May 21.
The sheriff's office has received all the test results. One was inclusive, Jahner said. Tests for Jahner and Capt. Andrew Frobig, the jail administrator, came back negative.
Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten
4. Fargo School Board candidates discuss boundary changes, returning to school at debate
Candidates for Fargo School Board were in agreement on most topics during a debate Thursday, May 21, with boundary changes in the district causing one of the only points of contention.
The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley presented questions from the public to spark discussion among the candidates.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the public was not present and the debate was split into two sessions to observe social distancing guidelines.
The candidates focused on the issues of how to reopen schools, boundary changes, how to improve communication with city departments and the Fargo Education Association, climate change and the budget.
Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen
5. Fargo Park Board candidates offer their ideas for reopening parks, healthy living and donations
The three candidates for two seats on the Fargo Park Board were asked how they would handle parks and recreation amid the coronavirus pandemic during a League of Women Voters forum Thursday night, May 21, at City Hall.
The three — Rick Graalum, Dawn Morgan and Jerry Rostad — all said they were very concerned about safety.
Local businessman Graalum said in addition to following federal and state safety guidelines, the budget should be reviewed, with tax revenue likely to fall and fewer fees collected.
He backed a phased approach to reopening, with signage, social distancing and disinfectant wipes.
Morgan, a community activist and director of the Spirit Room, said she would follow the safety advice of physicians and would encourage people, especially children, to get outside with social distancing. She would rather see children outdoors than playing video games.