To say that Chippewa County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Weick has been busy lately would be an understatement. The COVID-19 virus has been front and center in her world, and more than likely will be for the forseeable future.

To say that Chippewa County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Weick has been busy lately would be an understatement. The COVID-19 virus has been front and center in her world, and more than likely will be for the forseeable future.

“You could say I’m the public face when it comes to public health in Chippewa County,” laughed Weick. “I work really closely with our partners in CCM Health and Countryside Public Health to help send out a unified message to the public.”

Among her duties are daily conferences with Countryside and CCM Health. “We talk daily; the press releases we send out are the results of that coordination,” said Weick.

Countryside Public Health is the go-to for the latest up to date information on the pandemic. “They are the ones with the facts, and I facilitate sharing that information with our partners and the public,” Weick said.

Weick also helps out on the supply side of things. She said: “Another of my roles in a state of emergency is to locate and acquire resources that may be needed by our partners. If the hospital needs something and they can’t get it through their regular vendors, they can call me and I would put in a request to the state.”

Weick reports that, so far, supplies are adequate, but not over-abundant. “Right now, everything we have is for our health care providers,” she said.

Weick isn’t only in contact with local agencies, as Chippewa County is in Region 5 for Emergency Management. “We’ve been also having daily meetings with our regional partners. We talk about things we are doing and discuss any issues we have run into with businesses shutting down, declaring emergencies, and dealing with the public,” she said.

In addition to those duties, Weick reaches out to first responders in the fire departments and hospitals. Weick said: “We want to make sure they know they have our support, and that we will give them whatever they need if we can get it.”

It should be clear that during an emergency such as this, keeping the lines of communication open are of utmost importance. “I am very happy with our network! Our regional and local partners have been doing a fabulous job of communicating and coordinating with one another.”

According to Weick, the main message from every agency is to practice social distancing. “So far, Governor Walz has not issued the order to shelter in place, but if such an order is given, I would hope that everyone would follow the order and shelter in place,” said Weick.

For the Sheriff’s Office, COVID-19 hasn’t had much of an impact on day-to-day operations. “We are working 24/7,” said Weick, “and we are answering all calls. We are going to be there when we are needed.”

Of course, deputies would use due diligence when responding to some calls. “If we were to receive a call from an ambulance crew assisting a patient with respiratory issues, we would take precautions. Our deputies, along with the police department, do have a limited supply of masks if needed. We still do the same things we always do, but we’re a little more cautious,” said Weick.

Even within the Sheriff’s Department, deputies are practicing social distancing. “It’s not stopping what we need to do,” said Weick. “I really want people to take social distancing to heart. I think we all have to be cautious during this time.”

On Monday, Lac qui Parle County reported their first confirmed case of COVID-19. “As more cases pop up,” said Weick, “we have to assume that the virus is in our communities, and we have to assume that there are more cases that haven’t been confirmed due to a shortage of tests.

“We’re at a bad time of the year; there are spring allergies and spring colds, so how do you know what you may have? The general message is, if you are sick, stay home!”

When asked if she had any concerns about the situation, Weick reflected a moment and said: “I’ve been surprised at people’s reactions of panic. I’ve never seen anything like this. The virus isn’t the issue so much as what the virus has exposed about our society.”

Weick went on to offer some advice: “If we look at the information, and the information is from a reliable source, and we do what is asked of us, things will turn out for the best possible outcome.”

Understandably, people are frightened because there is so much that is unknown. Despite that, Weick believes that people should be cautious and not let fear rule them. “People should really focus on all the good that is being done. There are so many people in our community that are giving so much of themselves. It really is a bright spot in my days!”

If one thing can be said about the situation on the ground, it is that it changes every day. “We’re doing the best we can do,” said Weick. “The decisions we make today are done with the best intentions for today. Tomorrow, we may have to make different decisions, and that’s okay. We want everyone to know that we are making the best decisions for the people of Chippewa County.”

For now that’s all anyone can do, but it is comforting to know that there are people in the community who are doing the best they can for everyone.