At a special Bismarck City Commission meeting Thursday afternoon, commissioners approved changes to internal city employee guidelines to reflect the elevated COVID-19 risk level in Burleigh County as set by the state.
Burleigh and a number of other counties were moved from the moderate, or “yellow,” risk level to the high-risk, or “orange,” level on October 14.
Under the modified guidelines, for example, employees within city buildings are now required to wear masks in all public areas open to the public, as well as areas not open to the public such as hallways and stairwells.
Previously, the older guidelines gave more latitude to employees, requiring masks in some situations and encouraging mask use in others.
“The latest adjustments … strengthen our efforts to keep our employees safe and healthy as we continue to work in the midst of a pandemic,” wrote Bismarck City Attorney Janelle Combs in notes to the commissioners on the changes.
While the updates keep the city in line with the high-risk level guidelines outlined under the North Dakota Smart Restart plan, Combs said the changes should also help reduce healthcare expenses and city liability with respect to COVID-19 infections.
“With the rising costs of medical treatment for our employees with COVID that have impacted our health insurance, it is a fiscally conservative recommendation to try to mitigate the spread and the viral load, at least at the workplace, for our employees,” Combs wrote. “We have already experienced several very large claims for employee COVID-19 related hospitalization and treatment. The more employees who have this experience, especially in light of community-wide spread, the higher the chance of the City’s taxpayer dollars having to pay for those expenses.”