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March 28, 2020

3/19/2020 2:49:00 PM
Impact of COVID-19 containment effort being felt throughout Chisago County

The reality of school being closed for the whole state of Minnesota-- has brought home the seriousness of all things related to coronavirus.  In the wake of the no school order, basically a host of other sites closed-off in Chisago County;  where numbers of people might congregate or be grouped together in close quarters.

Chisago County Sheriff Brandon Thyen said that in order to make the strongest effort possible to keep jail populations healthy, there will be no outside services or programming or visiting opportunities at the jail.  

The lobby to the Public Safety Center is not open to the public.  You can call the administrative phone number if you have a special need 651-257-4100.  

Sheriff Thyen explained staff will process essential paperwork and continue to provide administrative functions;  but it is important to not introduce the virus into dispatch, jail or staff areas.

The patrol personnel will be using extra precautions in responding to calls.  Dispatchers will take an extra moment to determine if there are flu-like symptoms involved and if special gear should be put into service responding to incidents.  

“From intake of prisoners, on...” the sheriff commented, “we will be looking at everything.”

Continued access to tablets/laptops for inmates that have the ability to Skpe, will not be impeded if they must be in electronic remote contact with the outside.

Two area school districts approached the covid-19 or coronavirus situation differently.

The governor and Commissioner of MN Department of Education activated a statewide school closing, holding a press conference announcing the order Sunday March 15.  

All state schools were to  close as of March 18, allowing for a breather so school officials could collaborate and develop continuous equitable statewide education systems not based on face-to-face instruction.  This is often referred to as “e (electronic) learning” or distance learning.

In Chisago Lakes; where kids were scheduled to return to school Monday this week from traditional spring break, school was called-off Monday and Tuesday two days ahead of the governor’s order.

School closure goes through March 27 under the governor’s order.

The remote learning programs will be activated as of Monday, March 30 and attendance will be kept track of.  

The Chisago Lakes website contains forms that are meant to collect information on certain needs of district families.  People who are employed in essential professions were asked to let the district know on-line through one of the forms.  Students on free and reduced lunch  also were to let the district know  by filling out a form on-line at the district website if they want lunch or breakfast meals at home.

The family’s access to technology is also being determined. If you have no Internet and have nowhere for students to get on-line call the district at 213-2000.

Students will begin to have access to instructors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as of March 30.  Communication with details on each school distance learning program will be sent to district families.

North Branch Area Public Schools, meanwhile,  were holding classes and offered the usual before and after-school care and food service operations Monday and Tuesday this week.  For kids registered in Youth Connections, who belong to a family headed up by an essential worker the school age care program remains in effect.  These are named in the governor’s emergency order which include EMS personnel, healthcare providers, police, firefighters, court services staff, county case managers, etc.  If you have a question the program is at 651-674-1029.
Basically, there is no access to any school facilities currently and there won’t be access during at least the next week.  This includes any subscription fitness programs, pools and community centers, and for high school athletes all practices, games, events are postponed-- just as the spring season was to open.  (See sports section.)

The East Central Regional Library has called-off all library events that have been specially scheduled for branches in Wyoming, Chisago Lakes, North Branch and Rush City.

ECRL spokesperson Jon Tatting said the cancellations are until further notice.

Minnesota’s Judicial Council, the policymaking body of the Judicial Branch, adopted Emergency Order 20-01 on March 13 to protect against spread of the covid-19 virus in the courts.  Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea said the courts are one of the first promises made in the MN Constitution.  “The prudent and temporary measures we are implementing balance public safety, the safety of people visiting courthouses and the safety of our workforce.”

In local district court-- any cases underway designated as Medium or Low priority -- will be suspended for 14 days.  
No new jury trials in these cases will be scheduled for 30 days.

For cases designated High Priority or that have a speedy trial demand will continue as normal.  

Wherever possible courts should explore use of interactive technology to conduct hearings.

Jury trials underway will continue until the trial is complete, regardless of case type.

Service windows and court facilities will be open.The judicial branch discourages the public from making any non-essential visits to court facilities, which dovetails with the Chisago County statement on covid-19.  The county asks that residents and visitors be patient as some services may take longer that normal due to staffing levels.

County Board meetings are being held, but minus the “Public Forum” portion and people are encouraged to check in at the county website to see if the stream of the meeting is available.  There will also be no “presentations” from staff or outside contractors for the foreseeable future at Board meetings.

County Board Chair Ben Montzka signed a declaration of local emergency and with the statement, was this:  “Every county department is taking measures to limit unnecessary direct contact with the public and each other however, Chisago County remains committed to providing services.”

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