The Detroit Lakes City Council met in special session late Wednesday afternoon, March 18, to approve the declaration of a local state of emergency with regard to the global COVID-19 outbreak.

Unlike most city meetings, however, the council members did not sit up on the podium at the front of their chambers, where the seats are in close proximity. Instead, they were seated at long tables, with several feet between each of them. The chairs for audience members were also spaced out in an attempt to follow state-mandated guidelines regarding social distancing.

Before they passed the motion to adopt the emergency declaration, council members heard a summary from City Administrator Kelcey Klemm about what the declaration does — and does not — encompass.

"This is not a proclamation about shutting down the city, or other businesses (i.e., any that aren't covered by the governor's declaration)," Klemm said. "This is not a city-wide quarantine or curfew ... this is really about preparedness."

With that in mind, Klemm reminded council members of all the social restrictions, business closures and event cancellations that have already taken place. And he noted which businesses were to remain open, including city hall and the municipal liquor store, though he said that if the outbreak escalates, there could be reduced hours, split staff, a closed public lobby at city hall and other measures designed to limit exposure to the coronavirus.

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He added that the declaration also provides for future meetings to be held remotely, either by conference call or video conferencing, if such measures should become necessary.

While some might argue that the council passing such a proclamation is redundant to similar proclamations by Gov. Tim Walz and the Becker County Board of Commissioners earlier this week, Klemm said "It doesn't hurt to have a local resolution in place as well."

The motion passed unanimously, though aldermen Bruce Imholte and Jamie Marks-Erickson were not present for the meeting.

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