In a Zoom meeting on May 13, Wadena County Public Health, area police and sheriff representatives, city and county administrators and attorneys raised questions about summer events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from their cancellation to positive messaging.

Throughout the discussion, the balance of public health and the welfare of the community were considerations for events primarily in the next two months. Wadena County Public Health director Cindy Pederson hopes people planning events will not have their time or money wasted by sharing health and safety information early.

“It’s a really difficult situation because the science is pretty strong and the public health implications are pretty strong if we don’t do the right things, so it really is a balancing act and I think that it’s really difficult for everybody,” Cindy said.

One of the approaches Cindy noted is safely adjusting the dials, which Gov. Tim Walz shared in a daily briefing on April 30, according to the Forum News Service. The dials highlight the three categories of workplace, social and school settings, which show examples of businesses and events that can happen as the state works to reopen. At the end of the social dial is sporting events and concerts.

“Without having a crystal ball, I think it seems pretty logical that those kinds of things aren’t going to be happening for the next month or two at least,” Cindy said.

City attorney Jeff Pederson said people need to see the positive effects and know the why of following the dial approach since people have been discussing the lack of necessity with the health and safety measures.

“This isn’t going to work voluntarily and we’re going to continue to run into enforcement issues more and more unless people are buying into the idea that there’s some positive effect as a result of this,” Jeff said.

County attorney Kyra Ladd also said positive messaging from the local level is important to counterbalance the possible issues that could arise. Ladd said Pequot Lakes city council passed a resolution for businesses to open prior to the end of the stay at home order scheduled for May 18.

City administrator Janette Bower noted the city of Wadena’s resolution that urges the state to reopen small businesses, which was passed at the city council meeting on May 12. Bower said the council considered going further.

“A lot of the focus is now open businesses, we don’t care about the science … behind all of this now,” Bower said. “The rub is now the economic part of things and no longer the science about everything.”

As a note on events, Wadena County Sheriff's Department chief deputy Joe Schoon said the possibility of law enforcement responding to individual gatherings and organized resistance is different. Each jurisdiction will figure out their plan to respond.

Verndale police chief Cory Carr shared the Verndale committee's hope of having a DJ, parade and fireworks for the Straw Hat and Sunbonnet Days in July. Cindy noted those are under the large and less predictable end of the dial and recommends the committee “plan with caution.” Some area events for July have already been canceled.

“I figure more people go to Walmart a day than will be in Verndale in one day,” Carr said.

Cindy said the ability to social distance with crowds is the issue.

The events discussed and their possible cancellation included:

Wadena

  • Memorial Day program canceled

  • Wadena County Fair in question

  • June Jubilee canceled

  • Miss Wadena Pageant canceled

  • Wings & Wheels uncertain

  • Lion’s BBQ likely canceled

Sebeka

  • Memorial Day program canceled

  • Red Eye River Days decision coming on Monday, May 18

  • Sebeka School Reunion canceled

Menahga

  • Memorial Day program canceled

  • Midsummer Music Festival unlikely

  • Midsummer Celebration canceled

  • Sound of Spirit Lake concerts uncertain

Verndale

  • England Prairie Pancake Feed uncertain

  • Straw Hat and Sunbonnet Days want to have fireworks, parade on July 25

Nimrod events are in September with no decisions being made currently. Huntersville changed their spring ride from May 13-17 to June 12-14, which Cindy is following up on.