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Legislative conference rooms wired for video conferencing

As the number of North Dakota’s coronavirus cases continue to rise, state legislators spoke Thursday about the financial aid that has been distributed throughout the state and has helped keep individuals and businesses afloat.

Gov. Doug Burgum said $1.25 billion in emergency funds has been distributed.

Some 64 percent of the funding went to individuals, 24 percent towards public health and safety, and 12 percent to continuation of government services.

Assistance to individuals, according to Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, included the “payroll protection act” that helped businesses pay their employees and keep them employed and towards unemployment assistance for individuals who were out of work due to the pandemic.

An extra $30 million went towards K-12 schools, providing more resources to teachers.

Some of the funding was used to wire all of the committee rooms at the state capital .

“That will be with us for a long, long time,” said Wardner. “That will be a lasting benefit and that will be transparency. People will be able to watch committee hearings from at home and see what’s going on in government.”

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman said groups are working with the governor’s office to make adjustments for the upcoming legislative session to ensure that it is as normal a session as possible while still keeping all involved safe. Groups will make rule changes and follow health guidelines to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Dr. Michael LeBeau, president of Sanford Health in the Bismarck region, spoke about ensuring access to hospitals. He said hospitals and medical care providers are working together to ensure that there are enough staffed beds for COVID-19 patients and other patients who require hospitalization.

He said patients are “triaged” so those most in need of care will be seen first. He said health care is going to look different during the pandemic, including longer wait times in some emergency rooms, beds for patients in hallways, and transfers to other facilities.

State statistics show that 125 people currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state and 25 of those people are in intensive care units. There are some 214 people hospitalized for various reasons who also have COVID-19 and some 40 of those people are in the ICU. The state shows that there are 1,831 staffed hospital beds statewide and 13.16 percent of them are currently available.

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