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COVID-19: Faribault County’s response

By Staff | Mar 22, 2020

Two Juba’s SuperValu employees work diligently to stock shelves for the community. The store has limited supplies of disinfecting wipes, bleach and toilet paper. Juba’s SuperValu asks customers to purchase only what they need to ensure all have a chance and to be patient as they continue to stock their shelves.

From Faribault County District Court, to Blue Earth Area and United South Central school districts, the COVID-19 response is in full effect across the county.

In a statement from the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office, residents of Faribault County can rest assured that healthcare providers, public health, emergency management, law enforcement, fire and EMS?personnel are working together on the issue of COVID-19. Precautions are being taken by all agencies in order to control the spread of the virus.

The Sheriff’s Department also made mention that Faribault County District Court will hold limited court hearings for the next two weeks.

Richard Ash, CEO of UHD in Blue Earth, noted that UHD will be canceling some elective services.

“If you’re healthy, wellness visits need to wait,” he said. “If you don’t need elective surgeries, let’s not have them. We are also restricting visitation and unnecessary meetings.”

Martin and Faribault County Human Services executive director Chera Sevcik said her agency is working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health.

“The situation is rapidly evolving,” she said. “Just a couple of days ago, we did not have any cases in south-central Minnesota and now we have two. If there were to be a confirmed case in our county, the MDH?would alert our staff at our agency. We are also partnering with MDH to implement community mitigation strategies,” Sevcik continued. “So maintaining social distancing of six feet, limiting meetings and events to less than 50, or less than 10 if possible, and staying home if you are sick until you are symptom-free.”

Lisa Frommie, Faribault County Emergency Management director, was also in attendance. She said Faribault County will initiate the same measures as Martin County in response to COVID-19.

At Blue Earth Area, the district followed Governor Tim Walz’ protocol by mandating all schools in the state close to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Blue Earth Area held school Monday, March 16, to assist in planning and preparing for the initial closure, which included distributing devices and resources that may be needed should there be a long-term closure. The school has no flex learning days during March 17-27, and students will not be in school.

Little Giants Childcare Center and Be A Kid school-age care centers will remain open. Schools are mandated to provide childcare for all first responders and healthcare workers.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided during the closure for the school district.

All extracurricular activities are suspended beginning March 16, until further notice.

“While there are many unknowns, your BEA?staff will be working diligently over the next several days to plan and prepare to deliver the highest quality of education possible with this unprecedented healthcare event,” reads a notice from the BEA superintendent Mandy Fletcher. “Your children and our communities remain our main focus and we are committed to finding the best possible solutions during this challenging time. We will continue to provide the community with updates.”

At USC, only teachers and other certified staff reported to school on Monday, March 16. On Tuesday, March 17, the school experienced a two-hour late start for students where they were asked to clean out their lockers and collect needed materials for distance learning activities. An all staff meeting was held in the auditorium that morning. USC?staff planned for distance learning activities beginning Wednesday, March 18, until Friday, March 27, and stated in an open letter that USC will not require students to take part in any learning activities during this time.

In Wells, in addition to the Flame Theatre and Community Center closing, the Wells Public Library closed at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17. All meetings other than City Council meetings have been cancelled. Motor vehicle services are currently open with the exception of driver’s licensing. The city can still process tabs, titles, DNR?and other city business. The city stated electronic services will still be available. Wells will continue to follow CDC, Minnesota Department of Health and the Governor’s direction as the city moves forward.

Churches across the county have also adopted COVID-19 protocols. It is encouraged to contact your local parish to get exact information regarding local Sunday services.

The Blue Earth Giant Welcome Center and Memorabilia Museum has closed effective immediately until March 27. The Welcome Center hopes to reopen March 30, at 10 a.m., while their events planned for the month of March have been postponed.

“We have had multiple visitors visit over the past few weeks from multiple states and feel that, to do our part to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, we must close,” reads a statement from executive director of the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce, Emily Lange. “Please follow Blue Earth Area Chamber on Facebook for the most up-to-date information.”

However many scheduled events and public gatherings have postponed or cancelled their events due to COVID-19, there are still just as many area residents who are trying to make things as good as they can be.

Local students who were relieved from school are offering babysitting and childcare services to families in need.

One local food vendor, Scotty Biggs BBQ, has offered free meals for children under 12 when their food truck is in town. And their tip jar? It’s turned into a donation jar for people in need of food assistance.

“I don’t know how this will work, but I want to be able to give back to the people that have given so much to me,” said Scott Riesenbigler, owner of Scotty Biggs BBQ.

Kiester’s Kee Kafe offered free sack lunches on the weekdays to Kiester-area, USC?and Alden Conger students.

“We understand that some students depend on the food program,” reads a Facebook post from the Kee Kafe. “We want to do our part in joining together as a united nation to get through this current situation.”

Local grocery stores, like Juba’s SuperValu in Blue Earth, say they are working hard to keep their shelves stocked, and ask the public to remain patient and flexible.

No matter what Faribault County faces in the days and weeks ahead, its citizens are making their message loud and clear: together, we will get through this.