FERGUS FALLS -- For county government, it’s not if coronavirus (COVID-19) comes to Otter Tail County, it’s when this virus comes here.

That was the reality on March 27, with COVID-19 cases right next door in Clay County (Moorhead area) and Wilkin County (Breckenridge area).

“Our main concerns will continue to be life safety and stabilization of infrastructure,” said County Emergency Services Manager Patrick Waletzko to county board members during an online meeting Friday morning, March 27.

Waletzko is working in coordination with County Public Health Director Jody Lien. They both have command centers in place to help meet the wave of COVID-19 here in west central Minnesota

“We both are in the planning mode,” Waletzko said, “projecting what is likely coming down the line. We will be ready.”

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Waletzko is like county officials all across the state who want county employees to be available to assist not only county residents, in light of COVID-19, but also to assist first responders and health care providers.

Jody Lien
Jody Lien

Lien agrees.

“We are in close contact with our two hospitals here in Otter Tail County, namely Fergus Falls and Perham,” Lien said. “Each day we also communicate with staff members at the Minnesota Department of Health.”

On March 27 Lien said that, in addition to providing public health notices to county residents in general, there are additional efforts being made to reach members of the Amish community in eastern Otter Tail County.

“We also extend our efforts while communicating with schools, assisted living facilities, lodging facilities and others,” Lien added.

County Administrator Nicole Hansen told county board members that county employees who are able to work from home continue to do so. Those in offices continue to practice social distancing and regular hand washing.

“I join Patrick and Jody in saying that all county employees are ready and willing to respond to COVID-19,” Hansen said.

County employees are also willing and able to assist at county food shelves if manpower becomes short of what is needed.

“We see our volunteer efforts as complementary with what other organizations are doing all across the county,” said Nick Leonard, deputy county administrator. “We will be happy to assist when needs arise.”

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