The effects of the coronavirus pandemic struck hard March 25, during an emergency meeting of the Kanabec County Board of Commissioners.

As Governor Tim Walz announced his “stay at home” executive order, the Kanabec County declared a local state of emergency.

The declaration authorized and directed Kanabec County public safety, public health, administration and emergency management officials to undertake all actions necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Kanabec County.

The board authorized department heads to make pandemic-response related purchases up to $5,000 without prior board approval.

The city of Mora responded similarly. Mora Mayor Alan Skramstad made a similar declaration of a local emergency on Friday, March 27. The declaration of a local emergency authorized appropriate community containment and mitigation strategies as outlined in the Emergency Operations Plan.


In an update to the county commissioners board meeting on March 25, Sheriff Brian Smith said he and other emergency workers are expecting an increase in fatalities with the potential to overwhelm morgue facilities.

Anticipating the need for a place to store bodies, Smith suggested establishing temporary morgues either at the Mora Civic Center and ice rink which has cooling capabilities or use a refrigerated truck. Smith said the truck would likely be less expensive to rent and operate; downsides to using the Civic Center would be the community could develop an aversion to it after the pandemic. 

Smith said a decision did not need to be made now, but encouraged the commissioners to think about the options and which they would prefer.

Refrigerated trucks are already being used in New York to expand morgue capacity. New York’s death toll from the virus was over 1,500 as of Tuesday, March 31.

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