FARGO — Coronavirus concerns shouldn't hinder the push to fill sandbags to protect the area against spring flooding along the Red River and its tributaries, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said Monday, March 9.

Fargo and Cass County combined want to fill 400,000 sandbags, a task that will take four days if Sandbag Central can draw 200 volunteers per hour during the 12-hour shifts, starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, March 10.

Those who are sick are asked to stay home, but officials want to see able-bodied volunteers, Mahoney said.

"Please don't come if you're ill, but if you're well, we have a space that we feel is quite safe," he said. "It's really kind of open air. People aren't closely congested."

Officials from Fargo Cass Public Health will be on hand to monitor volunteers for signs of respiratory illness — a symptom of coronavirus — and will ask anyone with symptoms to go home, Mahoney said.

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"We have no active cases in the community," he said, noting that there are no reports of the coronavirus in the metro area. Minnesota has two confirmed cases.

Public health officials always are on hand at Sandbag Central, so their presence is routine, he said. Asked whether officials had any concerns that the coronavirus would pose a problem, Mahoney said, "No."

The city's sandbag-filling operation, Sandbag Central at 2301 8th Ave. N., will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Early signups by volunteers have been encouraging, but officials would like to fill gaps in the schedule, including early morning and from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m., Mahoney said

"The early signup looks pretty good," he said. But more volunteers are needed, starting in the afternoon. Officials will be calling large employers to see if they can help fill the scheduling gaps.

"We've got good volunteers," the mayor said. "We're better off on the first day than we were a year ago."

"This is a serious flood forecast and we're meeting it with a serious response," Mahoney has said. "Our soils are saturated to levels like we've never seen before and we need to be prepared. We can't be complacent."

Residents can call a hotline, 701-476-4000, to sign up. Groups of 15 or more should call 701-476-4141. For more information, including parking and shuttles to Sandbag Central, go online.