FARGO — Fargo has been identified as among the 15 metropolitan areas with the greatest potential to emerge as coronavirus infection hot spots.
The ranking came from The New York Times, which named Fargo as 14th on a list of metropolitan areas where the virus continues to spread. At the current rate, confirmed cases in Fargo will double every 6.2 days, with a daily growth rate of 12%, according to the analysis.
That rate equals Atlantic City, N.J., according to the Times analysis. New Jersey is one of the states that has been hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic.
Coronavirus infection cases continue to grow in Cass County, which had 472 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, and to climb throughout much of North Dakota, with 991 confirmed cases and 25 current hospitalizations.
Fargo leaders are preparing to reopen City Hall on Monday, May 4, with restrictions to protect the safety of employees and the public as North Dakota is preparing to ease constraints imposed to guard against coronavirus spread.
Also, Fargo will not opt out from the state’s plan to ease restrictions on businesses including bars, restaurants, fitness centers, beauty salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors that were shut down last month by executive order.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney rejects suggestions that the plans to reopen are premature given the continued rise in infections.
“The same conversations and concerns about reopening at the beginning of May would likely have also been raised if we were discussing a June or a July reopening; there simply is no perfect time,” Mahoney said. “As both a physician and a mayor, I continually balance the human/personal considerations with the data/analytics when making decisions.”
Among the 5,805 tests conducted so far in Cass County, 472 have been positive, or a positive rate of 8.1%, well below the national rate of 17.8%, he said.
“We feel that this allows our state and local leaders the ability to loosen restrictions to gradually restart our communities and economies,” Mahoney added. “This will not be an immediate return to work and we urge our residents to be smart about their actions.”
Desi Fleming, director of Fargo Cass Public Health, said local officials are prepared to respond in the event any hot spots emerge.
“Just as we are doing now, we will continue surveillance and monitoring of COVID case prevalence to determine our area’s appropriate response to this virus,” she said. “If we all take personal responsibility and make an effort to change and maintain our new behavioral norms of prevention practices, we will be able to maintain a slow spread.”
State and local public health officials have not tried to downplay the continued rise in positive cases in Cass County, Mahoney said.
“Let’s be clear on this — we are actively seeking to identify carriers, both those experiencing symptoms as well as those who are asymptomatic,” he said. “We are not hiding from the number of positive cases; we are seeking the real results so we can address them in preventing community spread. You cannot address a positive case until you first confirm its existence.”
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has said the increase in confirmed cases is largely the result of significant increases in testing capacity, which will continue to increase along with the ability to identify and isolate those who have come into close contact with those who test positive.
Mayor Mahoney ordered all public city facilities to close on March 19, although city services have continued to be delivered, with some city employees working at home.
Mahoney informed city department heads of his tentative plans to reopen city offices on Monday, with certain safety restrictions.
“These restrictions are currently being finalized by the mayor and city administration, who are working directly with each department’s leaders,” said Gregg Schildberger, a city spokesman. “We anticipate having more information for release later in the week.”
Preparations to reopen City Hall and other city facilities come as Gov. Burgum has announced his plans to ease some business restrictions Monday, provided favorable trends continue.
The city of Fargo has been following “continuity of governmental operational plans,” with department heads reviewing remote and in-person staffing decisions day by day. Essential city services, including water, sanitation and public safety, have been provided.
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