The words “until further notice” have become the new norm as information about cancellations, closings and travel bans changes by the minute in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.
On March 13, as Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm announced community mitigation strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19, store shelves in Mora were getting hit hard for items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
By March 15, Gov. Walz announced the closure of public schools to begin no later than March 18. Then, on March 16, Walz ordered the suspension of dine-in service at bars and restaurants until at least March 27. Drive-through and curbside pickup options would be allowed.
County braces for the worst
Kanabec County health and law enforcement heads asked for immediate action and flexibility from the County Board of Commissioners on March 17.
County board took steps to limit public access to the courthouse and othercounty buildings, and increase ability of county employees to work from home. Residents are encouraged to conduct as much business as possible (like paying property taxes, etc.) over the phone or via mail.
The Board of Commissioners made resolutions that would leave immediate decisions to department heads regarding their staffing needs, schedules and work from home options. The board recognized it would be near impossible to create a uniform policy that could address all the arising issues. The board encouraged department heads to make decisions about sending employees home due to illness or potential exposure to illnesses on a case-by-case basis.
The Kanabec County Board of Commissioners will no longer be conducting their meetings in person, but instead will perform business via a conference call system.
Masks, Safety staff limited
Kanabec County Community Health director Kathy Burski and Sheriff Brian Smith offered grim examples of the preparations they are taking to protect their staff. Their most immediate concern was keeping employees healthy, so they could in turn help the community.
“I want to take care of our people, because they are our greatest asset. I want them to know we are there for them, just as we expect them to be there for our citizens.” said Smith.
“This is the real deal folks. These are scary times and we need to take drastic measures,” he said. Smith explained his office is taking steps to make sure deputies reduce their exposure risk, or putting “people on the bench” so that if or when deputies become sick, there are healthy ones ready to step in.
Smith said he expected the spread of COVID-19 to get far worse and that action was needed now to prepare.
“I’m not trying to scare you out of your wits. I’m trying to scare you into your wits,” he said.
Burski reported her staff would be performing as many of their family health checks as possible via the phone. Burski said that if public health nurses need to make in-person visits, they won’t be well protected due to a shortage of face masks and other gear.
“I have what I have, which is limited,” she said. Nurses are being encouraged to use a single mask throughout the day, and perhaps longer unless they are soiled. “That’s what CDC says we can do, and with our limited supply, that’s what we need to do.”
Meanwhile both the Sheriff’s Office and Family Services are anticipating an increase in domestic violence and child protection issues as stress levels rise and families stay home.
Mora schools closed for students Tuesday March 17. All school-sponsored activities are suspended until in-person school resumes.
Staff at both Mora and Ogilvie schools are busy making preparations for when instruction for students resumes on March 30, whether it be in-person or via distance learning.
While schools are closed, both Ogilvie and Mora schools are preparing to offer child care for any parent who is an emergency worker critical in response to COVID-19. These positions include health care, law enforcement, firefighters, ambulance drivers, county case managers, etc.
Ogilvie schools have organized meal deliveries to students’ homes for those who need them. Students must sign up for the service.
For questions on how to utilize these services or for other school information, contact:
Ogilvie Schools: 320-272-5050
Mora Schools: 320-679-6200
The Woodbury Chorus Orchestra performance that was supposed to take place Sunday, March 15 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mora was postponed. Mora Food Pantry director Jodie Gerner said this is their largest fundraiser of the year and encouraged people to still send donations to:
Mora Food Pantry at PO Box 434 Mora MN 55051 or
Ogilvie Food Pantry at 225 E George Street Ogilvie MN 56358