With a 5-0 vote, the Wilkin County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to continue limiting access to all Wilkin County building in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This decision was made just hours before Gov. Tim Walz issued his executive order on Wednesday, March 25 directing Minnesotans to shelter-in-place for two weeks beginning Friday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. until Friday, April 10.

“I would recommend that we limit access until (Friday,) April 3. Whereas next week we can reevaluate again. It appears that all entities, even court, has shuttered their windows at this point, so limiting our access shouldn’t hinder our operations more than it currently is. It appears they are still able to function on a fairly even keel. Things that are needed to get done are getting done,” Emergency Management Director Breanna Koval said.

Daily News previously reported that the commissioners voted unanimously last Wednesday to limit access to the public from March 18-27. Koval explained that the time was to be used for county departments to evaluate what departments and operations are essential in the event that Gov. Tim Walz orders a state-mandated shelter-in-place while additionally limiting county staff’s exposure to the virus.

Those efforts to determine what operations were essential for the county during that time was beneficial to the departments and allowed those departments to function adequately, Koval explained.

Koval presented a list of departments and operations that would continue in the event of a shelter-in-place order by Gov. Walz. The list was determined through information from county department heads, Auditor-Treasurer Janelle Krump’s recommendation and current operations already set in place. The departments are deemed to be essential because they concern the health, safety and welfare of the county and county residents.

The following departments have been considered essential: the attorney’s office, emergency management, recycling department based on solid waste concern, family services in terms of mental health, financial and eligibility workers, highway workers based on only emergency work and repairs, jail, public health, sheriffs office, veterans offices based on financial and eligibility, courthouse maintenance department as some operations would need some level of maintenance.

“We will be continuing to limit access to the Wilkin County Courthouse until April, 3 and will reassess next Wednesday, we have approved the Wilkin County essential operations document that outlines the positions and departments that are considered essential if and when Gov. Walz issues an executive order to shelter0in-place,” Koval said.

The efforts the county is making are part of the movement of closing schools and businesses, canceling mass gatherings, working from home, self-quarantine, self-isolation and avoiding crowds has been the common practice in an attempt to keep the coronavirus from spreading fast.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 40-60 percent of the population will become infected with COVID-19. The concern has turned from a matter of if to a matter of when. Thus, creating the movement of slowing the spread to mitigate pressures on the healthcare system to provide better care.

Epidemiologists call this strategy of preventing a large surge of cases “flattening the curve.” The phrase has been the latest buzzword in government briefings, news and conversations. The idea behind this is not necessarily to reduce the total number of cases but rather slow down the rate of the virus spreading.

A large reason for this strategy of slowing down the rate at which people are getting sick is to alleviate the pressure on the healthcare system.

With this virus affecting the respiratory system, there is an increased risk of a patient requiring a ventilator. These machines help people breathe when they can’t breathe on their own. Essentially, air is transferred through a tube in the patient’s windpipe and into the lungs, thus mimicking the way we breathe naturally.

According to the New York Times, there are roughly 160,000 ventilators in the U.S., however, the American Hospital Association estimates 960,000 people will need the use of one over the course of the pandemic. Thus, by slowing the spread of the virus, not all patients will need ventilators at the same time.

Furthermore, as cases of the virus continue to soar, doctors, nurses, paramedics and other medical workers are confronting shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, surgical gowns and eye gear to protect themselves from the exposure to COVID-19.

With the growing concern of hospital beds, ventilators and necessary PPE, the world is being asked to comply with the federal guidelines to social distance, practice good hygiene and avoid large crowds.

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