Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, March 13, declared a peacetime state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is increasingly having an effect on Minnesota. President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency not long after Walz.

At a briefing Friday afternoon, Walz described the declaration as "opening up the toolbox" of available government actions, being that a state of emergency declaration allows Walz and the state government the flexibility to enact action they would not otherwise be able to do in non-emergency times. Such actions, which include calling upon the National Guard, have not been enacted at this time.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm outlined a series of recommendations to citizens amid the declaration which include but are not limited to:

• Canceling or postponing gatherings with 250 or more people (which has now been decreased to 10), as well as smaller gatherings in which guests could be within 6 feet of one another for 10 minutes or more limiting attendance to such events

•  Avoiding such events or unnecessary trips in public if you are a person who is at risk of experiencing the most adverse effects of COVID-19 (the elderly or those with underlying health conditions)

• Switching to remote modes of communication and staggering employees' workplace presence whenever possible

• Limiting visits to assisted living facilities or facilities that house people at higher risk.

A complete list of recommendations can be found at the Health Department website at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html. For more information, call the MDH COVID-19 Hotline at 651-201-3920.

In Belle Plaine, The Lutheran Home has begun restricting visitors to those with loved ones in hospice care or with a sensitive reason for the visit, according to a Lutheran Home statement. The Lutheran Home does not have evidence of infection at any of their facilities, and the measure is precautionary.

School Canceled for 2 Weeks

In a Sunday address, Governor Walz ordered the canceling of schools for eight days, effective Wednesday, March 18, through Friday, March 27. Belle Plaine Schools Superintendent Ryan Laager announced on Sunday that  schools would also be closed Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17.

"These are unique times and this situation is very fluid. We are going to work hard with our staff to provide high-quality academic opportunities and provide for the basic needs of our students," Laager wrote in an email addressed to parents in the district.

In a subsequent email, Laager detailed resources available to those in the district. Following is some of the key information from that email; additional details pertaining to school-provided meals appear in the story about the school board meeting also on page 1 of this issue.

Preschool Registration

Preschool registration for '20-'21 was scheduled to start on Wednesday, March 18.   At this time, we are postponing this event.  Please hold on to your registration forms.  We will share details with you regarding registration as soon as they come available.

Preschool Students and Families

The Preschool teachers will be creating materials for the students to use at home.  These will be fun and engaging materials that will continue to educate students.  We will be in touch with you regarding how to access these materials in the next few days.

iPads & Academic Materials Pick up

If your child needs to stop and pick up their device or academic materials, the schools will be open on Thursday, March 19, or Friday, March 20, from the hours of 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. for this opportunity.  Chatfield's Begindergarten-Grade 2 students are welcome to check out their school ipad on these days as well.

Internet Option

Charter Communications posted they are offering 60 days of free internet service. Starting March 16, this will be available for 60 days. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived.

Scott County

As of March 12, all non-essential gatherings, meetings, events, and activities hosted or convened by Scott County have been suspended until further notice. However, Scott County Libraries remain open.

As of Tuesday morning,  March 17, there are 60 known cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. At this point, there are no known cases of COVID-19 in Scott County.

Malcolm stated she believes it is possible and likely that more cases not associated with travel will appear in Minnesota, but that the MDH is actively seeking out those cases, as opposed to waiting for those cases to present themselves.

 Walz, toward the end of the address, further underscored the importance of taking individual responsibility for slowing the spread of the illness, for which there is no vaccine, particularly to those at greatest risk.

 "While some people may feel invincible and strong, our neighbors are not," Walz said.

 The virus can cause shortness of breath, fever and coughing. Symptoms could be mild or unnoticeable in some who may still be infectious.

 Officials at multiple levels continue to urge frequent hand washing, attention to general health and covering coughs and sneezes.

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