FERGUS FALLS -- Otter Tail County sheriff's deputies have been checking on lake properties owned by snowbirds who are delaying returns to Otter Tail County in light of COVID-19.

“We are happy to assist during what has become out-of-the-ordinary circumstances,” Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons told county board members on Friday, April 3.

The county sheriff and others who head the various departments in county government say that retirees coming back to Otter Tail County this spring from places such as Arizona and Florida know they will need to adhere to stay-at-home and other directives.

“They also know that, when back home, they will need to follow guidelines on no travel unless it’s absolutely essential,” Fitzgibbons said.

Fitzgibbons and other county officials have concerns about a new wave of people, both snowbirds and tourists, coming to Otter Tail County later this spring and summer. What officials don’t want to see is an overtaxed health care system, including the county’s two hospitals in Perham and Fergus Falls.

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“It’s a different world today with COVID-19,” Fitzgibbons said. County Emergency Manager Patrick Waletzko told county commissioners on April 3 that county officials also are keeping track of issues such as understocked grocery stores and housing shortages.

County Public Health Director Jody Lien said she and her staff are keeping in close touch with nursing homes and are continuing outreach and communications services related to coronavirus.

Nicole Hansen, county administrator, said most county employees are working from home and others who are directly in the workforce are taking precautions to prevent exposure to COVID-19.

County Attorney Michelle Eldien and County Human Services Director Deb Sjostrom addressed mental health issues in these uncertain times. Specifically, they referred to challenges while responding to behavioral issues in times of crisis.

County Commissioner Doug Huebsch of Perham said he wants Otter Tail County to do what’s right and make the proper decisions. His fellow commissioners agreed.