Although the Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, there is never a bad time to let people know what you are grateful for.

I am grateful for the resilience and tenacity of the Grand Forks community. After looking at the data and seeing our case numbers slowly decline, there are reasons to be hopeful and cautiously optimistic moving forward. From all the resources and information at our disposal, it is apparent to us that the everyday actions and COVID-safe decisions from the citizens of Grand Forks are having a positive impact on slowing the virus’ spread in our community. What everyone is doing is making a difference. For that I am grateful and ask that everyone continue these safe behaviors. It is incredibly important that we keep this trend going to take pressure off of our hospital system, health care workforce, and long-term care facilities.

Additionally, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Altru Health System for going above and beyond when it comes to aiding the community in our response to the pandemic. From the very beginning, they have been delivering cutting-edge treatment to those in need. Through a program with the Mayo Clinic, they were one of the first hospitals in the country to use convalescent plasma to treat COVID patients. No other hospital system in North Dakota operates a regional COVID hotline and conducts drive-through testing like Altru does. With Altru taking on these responsibilities, our Public Health Department has been able to focus on contact tracing, coordination, and testing/vaccine logistics. With the tremendous work done by the Grand Forks Public Health Department, our contact tracing partnership with UND, and the state of North Dakota’s relentless commitment to testing, I’m confident to say that Grand Forks has the leading edge processes and procedures in place to identify, isolate, and quarantine positive cases.

Even though there is much to be grateful for, we know there are steep and humbling challenges ahead.

With our public schools transitioning to online learning through the end of the calendar year, we know this will bring challenges for everyone. During these difficult times that have fallen upon all of us, no one has had to sacrifice more than the youth in our community. My heart aches for our students that have had to live through all the cancellations and postponements of memorable moments like dances, sporting events, graduations, and extracurricular activities. It’s important that we live with compassion, love and understanding for everyone in our community, especially our youth.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

We know many of our small businesses are struggling right now. They’ve always stepped up for us in good times and bad through donating to charitable organizations in the community, sponsoring youth sports teams, and supporting fundraisers for those in need. Now is their time of need and for us to give back. With the holiday season upon us, please make a concerted effort to shop at a local small business for gifts instead of shopping online. Order takeout, delivery or dine-in service at a local restaurant. Buying a gift card is a simple way to help small businesses as it provides direct financial support at this critical time.

Most importantly, our prayers are with those currently fighting against this virus and their family members that are unable to see them, especially during the holiday season.

Despite the current struggles, it is great news that multiple successful vaccines have been identified and are being prepared for prioritized and eventually mass distribution. Altru and the Grand Forks Public Health Department are working closely with the state of North Dakota on planning and logistics for the vaccine roll-out.

Given the trends we are seeing due to the COVID safe behaviors of Grand Forks residents and the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, I have never been more optimistic that better days are ahead. Stay the course, Grand Forks.

Brandon Bochenski is mayor of Grand Forks.