Ron Hall Memorial Access, Shorewood Drive

The Ron Hall Memorial Access on Shorewood Drive is closed to the public, following council action.

A special meeting of the International Falls City Council Friday is expected to result in additional steps to coincide with Gov. Tim Walz' executive order Wednesday directing Minnesotans to stay home, to curb the COVID-19 spread.

Walz signed Executive Order 20-20 directing Minnesotans to stay at home and limit movements outside of their home beyond essential needs.

The order takes effect at midnight Friday and ends at 5 p.m. April 10.

In addition, he extended the closure of bars, restaurants, and other public accommodations until May 1 and authorized the implementation of a distance learning period for Minnesota’s students beginning Monday through May 4.

The information about the noon Friday meeting was not available for this edition, but will be available online following the meeting.

City response

Mayor Harley Droba told The Journal Thursday the council will consider, and is expected to approve, closing boat accesses within the city, and limiting all food services to true curbside delivery and drive though, which means not allowing customers in buildings.

Droba said those plans, and plans submitted by department heads on on how to keep the city's operations working, will be acted upon Friday.

The extra steps beyond the governor's stay at home order are allowed by law, he said.

Droba said he knows these steps will impact local businesses, but said he hopes business owners understand the need to protect the community and enforce social distancing protocols.

The city's Pat Roche access at the Voyageurs National Park Headquarters and the state-managed Ron Hall Memorial Access on Shorewood Drive are expected to be closed, he said.

"The biggest concern about closing them down is we need to make sure the information is relayed to the metro area, Duluth and anybody who would travel to come here," Droba said. "They need to know there is no reason to drive up."

In an effort to keep people from gathering at boat landings, Koochiching County this week closed its boat accesses along the Rainy River, which usually at this time draws thousands of anglers to fish for trophy walleye and sturgeon during the first open-water season in the state.

Meanwhile, Droba said the council will consider requiring food for pickup to be prepared ahead and boxed. That will include all gas stations and convenience stores, coffee shops, grocery store delis and bakeries - any where people wait to be served.

"It will have to be prepacked so people can grab the food they need and move on," he said. "We don't want people waiting inside for food to be prepared."

Droba said he's reached out to business owners and will continue to do so. At least one welcomes the idea of those new local rules because they don't want to put their family and their customers at risk, Droba said.

Miner's Inc., which owns both local grocery stores, has already decided to limit service at its delis.

He said the city has seen no operational changes. It has had some employees out for illness and to self isolate, and they have returned to work when appropriate, he said.

Meanwhile, Droba said he's been frustrated by people who are using this time to visit with friends and family here and elsewhere.

"Now is not the time to come up to help grandma paint her living room," Droba encouraged.

"In reality, the best thing we can do now is be antisocial (physically)," he said.

Other reactions

"PCA will continue to operate with COVID-19 safeguards in place to protect our employees and business," said Lori Lyman, Packaging Corporation of America's Boise paper spokesperson.

The governor's order included exemptions based on federal federal guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA, at the Department of Homeland Security. CISA identifies workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products as an essential critical infrastructure workforce, Lyman said.

Rainy River Community College and other Minnesota State colleges and universities are closely monitoring the developing situation related to COVID-19 and are committed to taking steps necessary to protect the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students, a news release said.

Walz declared educational activities and services as essential, which means Rainy River Community College is exempt from this order. Campus-based essential services needed to support students will be staffed by a limited number of employees on campus.

Instruction and services will resume, as scheduled, on Monday. All classes will be delivered using alternative modes, and the campus will remain closed to the public but students can access the campus, if needed, for services not accessible at home.

"RRCC faculty and staff will continue to contact students to touch base and discuss how classes are progressing. Communication between faculty, staff and students will continue on a regular basis," the release said.

The most updated information can be found on the RRCC website at http://bit.ly/2U7ePTA. In addition, information can be found through the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Koochiching County Sheriff Perryn Hedlund said the governor’s order does not change law enforcement operations.

"We continue to work with our Public Health partners to keep the public informed and safe," he said. "We encourage everyone  to heed the message by the governor and stay home as much as possible in an effort to mitigate the rapid spread of the virus.

"The only way to accomplish the mission at hand is to have everyone abide by the governor’s order out of care and compassion for others. We are all in this together and  if we all pitch in, we can get through it sooner."

The order

Minnesotans may leave their residences only to perform any of the following activities, and while doing so, they should practice social distancing:

  • Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies.
  • Outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing.
  • Necessary Supplies and Services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out.
  • Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state.
  • Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household.
  • Displacement, such as moving between emergency shelters if you are without a home.
  • Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home has been unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons.
  • Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation.

Workers who work in critical sectors during this time are exempt from the stay at home order. These exemptions are based on federal guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with some Minnesota-specific additions. This includes, but is not limited to, jobs in:

  • Healthcare and public health;
  • Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders;
  • Emergency shelters, congregate living facilities, drop-in centers;
  • Child care;
  • Food and agriculture;
  • News media;
  • Energy;
  • Water and wastewater; and
  • Critical manufacturing.

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