Some Grand Forks City Council members worried about coronavirus safety measures at a 300-person piano concert in Town Square, so what happens when -- or if -- the University of North Dakota football team takes the field at the Alerus Center?
Leaders at the NCAA, the Missouri Valley Football Conference and other governing bodies have been contemplating how the 2020 football season should play out, but, under normal circumstances, a Fighting Hawks game draws thousands of fans to the city-owned Alerus Center. Most Council members who spoke to the Herald said they’re worried about any large-scale event, not just college football games specifically.
“In general, I would say that any kind of a large social gathering is cause for concern, but that doesn’t mean that the show shouldn’t go on,” Dana Sande, the council’s president, told the Herald on Thursday. “It just means we need to verify that people are doing things the right way.”
Council member Jeannie Mock feels similarly.
“If you put people in closed settings, that seems to be a good way for the virus to spread,” she said.
Council member Danny Weigel said he’s not worried about scheduled UND games because he has faith that the city and university will ensure those games are safe.
“I think the Alerus Center has gone to a lot of great lengths in order to understand where they need to be as far as hosting events within their venue,” Weigel said.
City contractors from Spectra run the center and several others across the country, Weigel noted.
“They have a knowledge base that we can heavily lean on,” he said.
Council member Katie Dachtler said she’s also worried about large-scale events in general, and that the city needs to figure out a “new normal."
“On the micro level, people think about your personal responsibility and what you’re doing to keep yourself safe and others safe ... and that’s great,” Dachtler said. “There is absolutely a large element of that in moving forward through the pandemic. However, at the macro level, that’s where you have policy makers coming in and people who are tasked with keeping your community as safe and healthy as possible.”
City administrators and Mayor Brandon Bochenski have been meeting with staff at the university, Grand Forks County, Grand Forks Air Force Base, Altru Health System, Grand Forks Public Schools and Grand Forks Public Health to devise a unified plan to begin school this fall, test residents and analyze local COVID data, as well as set up a color-coded system that’s fundamentally similar to the one in North Dakota’s “smart restart” plan but is tailored to the Grand Forks area.
City Council members are scheduled to get an update on that plan in mid-August.