How schools, businesses and the rest of St. Ansgar is reacting to the epidemic
For the quiet, rural town of St. Ansgar, worldly events rarely have a direct impact on the status quo. Life in Mitchell County, however, is now anything but ordinary.
What started as a respiratory illness in China has crept across American borders to instigate completely unprecedented panic, from barren supermarket shelves to empty school classrooms in the middle of March.
While there aren’t any confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in, or even near, Mitchell County, area officials have made sure to take plenty of precautions.
The progression of the city-wide shutdown moved in the blink of an eye, with the St. Ansgar School District having been confident that normal operations would continue on March 12, and moving to an indefinitely long closure just three days later.
The St. Ansgar Board of Education will hold a special session on Thursday, March 19, to finalize next steps for distance learning and pay of school employees. The board’s agenda can be reviewed on page four.
The schools are facing plenty of challenges of their own in trying to transition an entire district to online learning: making sure students have the internet connection and resources necessary, continuing to provide an income for school support staff and creating teachers out of parents who never aspired to be homeschoolers.
Another recent development was the public health emergency proclamation from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who ordered many types of businesses to close, from restaurants to fitness centers to bars.
Dawn Buringrud, owner of St. Ansgar bar and restaurant City Limits, said she had no idea things would get this serious.
“I suppose I’ve kind of had my head in the sand,” she continued, “but we will switch to takeout for now.”
Carpenter Bar and Grill, in Carpenter, reported on social media that takeout options are available there from 4 to 9 p.m. daily.
Paradise Pizza, another popular community joint, agreed that they will comply with the governor’s order to switch to carry-out food only.
Crystal Meitner, a local restaurant owner and mother of five, said that the important thing to do right now is adapt to all of these new challenges.
“I am learning a lot more about my children’s schoolwork and how to ‘homeschool,’” she said. “A big thanks to our teachers for all of the extra help and guidance.”
Someone at Sportsman’s Lounge was not immediately available for comment about what their operations will look like now.
The impact on other community businesses varies depending on what services they offer.
St. Ansgar State Bank is restricting access to the bank lobby, choosing to protect their customers by encouraging use of online and mobile banking, ATMs and drive-up options. As of Wednesday, March 18, Farmers State Bank in St. Ansgar hadn’t decided on any changes to their lobby access.
Jon Henaman, owner of the local grocery store The Food Center, said he’s had a hard time finding items in stock to order, in order to have a weekly special.
While the state of Iowa hasn’t made any official movements shutting down businesses like nail and hair salons (as of Wednesday, March 18), the cosmetologists at Salon 318 remain watchful to see if they’ll get the axe from Governor Reynolds. Reynolds may follow suit from the Minnesota governor, who made the cosmetology ban earlier this week.
Lindsey Falk from L. R. Falk Construction also said that their daily schedules haven’t changed much.
“We are lucky that everyone is already pretty spaced out and outside, or in their own piece of equipment,” he said.
Additionally, community calendars have been wiped clean, with most spring events being nixed in an effort to prevent COVID-19 spread. We are keeping a running tally of community cancellations and postponements with other COVID-19 communications on page four.
With infinite information being circulated online about the nature of the virus, it can be hard to determine what is accurate. A COVID-19 fact sheet from a local source can be found on page four. Health officials continue to encourage residents to practice social distancing, only leaving the home for necessary errands like work and grocery shopping.