Before the COVID-19 pandemic the Pine County Facility Committee had been looking to increase space at the County Courthouse in Pine City and phase out use of the South Pine Government Center (SPGC). With the increased need for employees to work from home, the committee has re-evaluated the need to create an annex on the courthouse. 

At this time the committee has determined that flexible spaces, rotations and tele-work for enough employees could be created to continue with plans to vacate SPGC and not have to build an annex. The committee and board of commissioners will now move forward with creating a plan to transition or continue to have the necessary number of employees telework. 

Amy Isaacson, Pine County Court Operation Supervisor, presented on the plans to reopen court rooms. Court Room B was opened and had in person hearings during the week of May 18. The bailiff during the hearings is responsible for cleaning and enforcing social distancing. Markings were provided to show safe areas for people to sit. Safety protocols for all future openings are being put in place. The goal is to have further court proceedings, for criminal cases begin as early as the first week of June. 

Becky Foss with the County Management team gave a presentation summarizing the data so far and ongoing questions to move forward with. Most current numbers of COVID-19 cases are available on the Minnesota Department of Health website for Minnesota case numbers and the Center for Disease Control site for case numbers for the United States. These numbers are updated daily at approximately 11 a.m.

Age ranges that are most affected by COVID-19 nationally according to reported cases are people age 18 to 44 and those age 45 to 64. Over 35% of patients needing hospital care will need intensive care and over 80% of deaths from COVID-19 are from long term care facilities. As more is learned about the virus information changes. Samantha Lo, with Pine County Public Health Supervisor, added that although this is a respiratory illness there have been changes in symptoms that are not respiratory systems. Including changes to cardiac systems, blood clotting issues. “We are learning more every day about it,” said Lo after commenting that the oddness of the illness prevents predictions of individual responses. 

The County Board of Commissioners is given these updates to allow for input and the ability to understand the responses that the county is making. Determining when services will reopen to the public is dependent on multiple factors. Waivers and orders for multiple sources are dependent on many sources. The Governor’s Executive order determining a peacetime emergency expires in June. Direction from the board was sought. 

The Pine County Board of Equalization meeting is to be held in June, usually this meeting has a low number of attendees. There is a possibility that up to 60 people could attend this meeting. Suggestions from Schroder were to table making a decision until more information is gathered by the June 2 board meeting. 

Addressing the public concern of access to county services was a large topic of discussion. Giving access to county offices will take a phased appearance to take precautions for patrons and employees. The Pine County Courthouse will open to the public for walk-in services on June 1 for the following offices: Auditor, Treasurer, Recorder, Assessor, Planning, Zoning and Solid Waste. There is the expectation that social distancing be observed. The North Pine Government Center will be open by appointment only, with a focus on Veteran’s Services. 

Other updates

Filling for state and county offices began on May 19 for the primary election in November. Contacting the County Auditor/Treasurer Kelly Schroder for resources is recommended.

The June 2 County Board of Commissioners meeting will be held electronically.

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