Grand Forks mayor rescinds six COVID-19 orders

A pair of emergency orders Mayor Brandon Bochenski signed Tuesday and Wednesday mean travel is no longer restricted for city employees, discretionary spending no longer needs to go through top-tier city administrators and more.

Brandon Bochenski is shown in this Herald file photo in June 2020, around the time he was sworn in as mayor of Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks’ mayor has rescinded six orders that have been in place since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Brandon Bochenski on Tuesday signed emergency order 2021-2 and, on Wednesday evening, signed emergency order 2021-3. Together, they revoke six earlier emergency orders that he and his predecessor put in place as the city first grappled with the pandemic, including a directive to temporarily house homeless people who’ve tested positive for the virus or are a close contact of someone who has.

Bochenski and City Attorney Dan Gaustad did not return requests for comment Wednesday, but City Administrator Todd Feland said the net effect of revoking those orders means travel is no longer limited for city employees, discretionary spending at Grand Forks City Hall no longer needs to be approved by him and Finance Director Maureen Storstad, door-to-door sales are no longer banned and employees who were temporarily allowed to receive overtime no longer will.

Perhaps most notably, the mayor’s new orders also rescind an earlier one by former Mayor Mike Brown that directed city Health Department Director Debbie Swanson and other public health staff to provide hotel and motel rooms for people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or are a close contact of someone who has, but who lack permanent housing, live in a congregate shelter, or are otherwise not able to quarantine safely in their present living situation.

Staff at Grand Forks Public Health said they’re determining how best to proceed with the mayor’s order and would have a better idea next week of what that would entail. Feland said it means the program won’t continue via the city anymore.


“There have been plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated,” he told the Herald, “and we don’t believe it’s the responsibility of the city at this point.”

The city, he said, hasn’t put anyone in a hotel or motel via that order in 2021 and doesn’t expect to in the future. The money to pay for those hotel stays ultimately came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which then-President Donald Trump signed into law in March 2020.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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