As Gov. Tim Walz rolls out his new “Stay Safe, Minnesota” campaign, and our state begins to reopen, we want you to know that Carver County Public Health stands ready to help everyone, from businesses to residents, stay safe and healthy as we begin to navigate this new normal.

We also recognize this pandemic continues to create uncertainty and anxiety in our lives, along with the tangible impacts on our livelihoods, loved ones taking ill, and experiencing feelings of isolation as many of our places of social connection aren’t available.

But as the governor rotates those dials on his opening plan, we can take real action to move things forward and keep one another safe and healthy. As we move toward allowing small group gatherings of 10 people or less (with physical distancing) and some businesses reopen with safety protocols in place, the better we adhere to these tactics, the safer we all remain. We know the data shows the virus spreading across the state and county. While increased testing explains some of that growth, our county-level data shows that a significant portion of our cases comes from community spread.

This means we need to continue focusing on protecting ourselves and our neighbors. Former Sheriff Jim Olson, who serves as the county’s pandemic response external liaison to other public entities, uses an appropriate analogy regarding the virus. If a theft occurs in your neighborhood, you might decide to install security systems, organize a neighborhood watch group and report suspicious activity. However, if you take these actions prior to a theft, you may have prevented it from occurring in the first place.

The same goes for the virus — just because you haven’t seen evidence of it in your city or township doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that you shouldn’t take precautions to keep it at bay ahead of time. Furthermore, the latest research shows us that your neighbor or business colleague maybe asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic and they don’t know it. Therefore, we feel the actions taken by county residents and businesses that helped “flatten the curve” and kept us safer, should continue as we gradually phase into our “new normal.”

Part of this protection plan is testing — while we still don’t have enough supplies to test everyone, we want every symptomatic person to receive a test. Widespread testing helps us understand and track the virus, aiding in protecting everyone in our communities.

We moved past the initial phases of containment and community mitigation — where physical distancing, staying at home, telework, and school closings started to occur — and into pandemic management. This phase focuses on managing widespread disease transmission, management of scarce medical resources, providing essential services and encouraging self-isolation of ill people.

That doesn’t mean that we can discontinue the actions we started during the earlier phases. In fact, the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbor continues to be those same tactics that science has proven to work.

A major component of protecting one another, which allows businesses to reopen and keep employees and customers safe, is wearing cloth face coverings. Many businesses, including Carver County, strongly encourage customers to wear these face coverings. We wear them to protect one another, showing genuine respect and care for those around us. Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on how to use and care for your cloth face covering and other guidelines to keep customers and employees safe.

Most medical and public health experts agree that the virus will remain with us for the foreseeable future, requiring us to adapt to a new normal. This doesn’t mean we have to give up on going to our favorite restaurant or downtown shop. The new normal may mean your favorite restaurant will have less capacity, and servers will be wearing face coverings. The downtown shop you love to frequent will limit the number of customers inside with a plexiglass barrier at the cash register, while continuing to offer curbside pick-up or online ordering.

Carver County Public Health can assist everyone in navigating this new normal. We can assist businesses with best practices to reopen, but keep their workforce and customers safe and healthy. We can do this by continuing to physical distance, limiting the size of our gatherings, and wearing our cloth face coverings to respect and protect each other. We can educate customers and residents on navigating this new normal, how to make a cloth face covering, and how to wear it correctly.

This new normal requires a balance of business and health — we can’t stay in our houses forever. We all need to learn how to protect ourselves, our neighbors, friends and loved ones.

Not only must we reduce risk and find our way in this “new normal,” but we need to support our own mental health and well-being. You can learn about these various resources, ranging from support groups to housing and food support, on our pandemic response website at www.co.carver.mn.us/covid-19.

While no one — including government or public health officials — have all the answers, I do know that we can get through this much easier by supporting one another, showing respect towards our neighbors, and exercising grace during difficult times.

Dr. Richard Scott serves as Carver County’s Director of Public Health.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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