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Website offers resources to residents

By Staff | Apr 3, 2020

A task force comprised of local government officials, first responders, health care professionals, businesses, schools and social services has launched a website providing critical information for Pierce County residents facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pierce County Emergency Manager Kelsey Siegler designed the website located at piercecountyndresources.com.

“We have a group that has been working and meeting twice a week to make sure we’re assessing and addressing concerns and then we pooled together information from various groups and other information that we thought was pertinent,” Siegler said.

“Samantha Wentz is our public health nurse. She’s the head of our top tier on this (task force),” Siegler added.

Also included in the task force are representatives from the hospital, ambulance, fire department, law enforcement and jail. Pierce County Auditor Karin Fursather, Rugby City Auditor Jennifer Stewart and Rugby Mayor Susan Steinke also sit on the task force.

Siegler listed other task force members: “We also have representation from Rugby public works. We also have Ashley Berg as a county representative. We have Kelly Jensen, who’s the director of social services for our region; then we have another representative from social services. We have representatives from the hospital pharmacy and White Drug. We also have Dr. Rick Legasse from Rugby Veterinary Services and we have Liz Heisey from the JDA. We also have Dr. Mike McNeff of Rugby Public Schools.”

“We do biweekly teleconferencing” Siegler said of the task force’s meeting schedule. “We’re practicing social distancing.”

One of the first tasks for the group was to draft a pandemic plan adopted by Pierce County on March 26 as a part of the county’s current emergency operations plan, she said.

“We set up the website,” Siegler noted. “Our main concern was that we were pushing out good, accurate information to the public and making sure there were resources available. We did work a lot with human services and focused a lot on their page, so if you click on the links from the home page, it takes you straight to the forms that can be filled out for the different assistance programs they offer.”

Other links on the page go to Heart of America Medical Center, food resources from Rugby Public School District and the Pierce County Food Pantry and updated information from the North Dakota Department of Health.

The page also features a link for business owners.

“Liz Heisey has been handling that portion of it, so we have been directing inquiries to (the Rugby Job Development Authority) page for information on all of the resources and loan information for businesses,” Siegler said.

Siegler said the task force “set up a list of objectives for our group and those were: To provide and monitor those self-isolating and the vulnerable population with necessary items such as food, water and appropriate sheltering; provide consistent and accurate communication with the public; maintain essential healthcare continuity; promote social distancing by encouraging limiting groups in gatherings under 10 people and promoting self-spacing of at least six feet (apart) and maintaining normal emergency response efforts.”

“Those were objectives that we identified and that’s what we’re working toward.” Siegler noted, adding, “We’re kind of using our platform to support each other – thinking ahead; what do we need to be prepared for?”

“What are our capabilities, what resources do we have and what do we need to build on?” Siegler added.

“We’re using social media as a platform to push out daily information, daily suggestions from (agencies such as) the CDC and the North Dakota Department of Health and the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. We’re recommending those things (for public information),” Siegler indicated.

“There is a group organized locally – the Rugby Community COVID-19 page,” Siegler said of a Facebook group. “As long as that page remains positive, we’re having people go there to see what they can do and see if there are needs. We’re monitoring that also.”

“We’re looking at combining forces with the schools to see if there are any things we should be addressing outside of school operations or outside of that student population,” Siegler added.

Siegler offered encouragement to the residents of Pierce County.

“We all understand that social distancing is very hard,” she noted. “We’re a very tight-knit community and this is a hard one.”

“As a group, we keep encouraging it. We’ve done different (public service announcements) at the radio station to drive home the message that this is how we flatten that curve,” she said, referencing how social distancing slows the spread of COVID-19.

“This is how we support our medical resources. It’s hard. It’s not fun. We know that there are a lot of people in our community that are vulnerable to this (pandemic) and we each need to do our job, and our responsibility is to protect them by doing what we can,” Siegler noted.

“Right now, there’s not a whole lot we can do except for that social distancing, making sure we’re washing our hands. If we’re sick, stay home. Don’t expose people if you’re sick.”

“There are different community activities – the “bear hunt,” for example – that was one thing you could do with social distancing. It allowed us to go out and wave at our neighbors,” Siegler said, referring to an activity where residents were encouraged to place teddy bears in their windows for passing children and families to see.

“I’ve seen a lot of people walking their dogs,” Siegler added. “Those are things you can do as long as you’re keeping a distance between yourself and others. We’re encouraging you to get fresh air as long as you can social distance.”

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