As state and federal officials desperately work to “flatten the curve” and the impact of COVID-19 cases on our health care system, many local businesses have experienced the devastating results of an economy that has ground to a halt.
Newspapers are just one sector of the local economy that have been hit hard by the spread of the virus and the historic measures officials have taken to slow its movement.
Just this week Adams Publishing Group of East Central Minnesota, the parent company of this newspaper, announced plans to trim its workforce hours by 25% and also notified many of its part-time staff and correspondents that they would be sidelined until the local economy is back on its feet.
“As we are all well aware, the economy is experiencing significant and rapidly evolving challenges for all businesses due to coronavirus, and APG is experiencing the same contraction,” Mark Adams, CEO of Adams Publishing Group in Minnesota, wrote in a memo to employees this past Wednesday. “Now more than ever, it has become even more critical that we be financially and immediately responsive to those market conditions.”
APG of East Central Minnesota newspapers will continue to produce print and online editions and there will be no interruption of service for customers, but staff will be operating under reduced time constraints. Staff are also following the guidelines specified by the CDC regarding social distancing, frequent hand washing and proper sanitizing of equipment and surfaces.
"This was a very difficult decision for us, which we did not take lightly. But given the circumstances with COVID-19 and its impact on all sectors of the economy, we needed to take steps that would help us weather this event,” said Mark Weber, president of Adams Publishing Group of East Central Minnesota. “Our readers and advertisers can be assured that papers will go out on time and our online sites will be updated frequently. That is only possible because of the dedicated staff who continue to amaze me with their determination.
"It’s been a tough couple of weeks for everyone, but we certainly appreciate all the support from our readers and advertisers. And we all look forward to the day when this virus no longer disrupts our lives,” Weber said.
The announcement came as Gov. Tim Walz was addressing the state about his plans to implement a statewide shelter in place order that will be effective March 27, just before midnight, until 5 p.m. on April 10.
Gov. Walz also announced that he would be extending the time period of the closure of bars, restaurants, and other public accommodations until May 1, 2020 at 5 p.m., and set the stage for a distance learning plan to be implemented beginning March 30 through May 4. Most K-12 students have been stuck at home since the governor issued an executive order preventing the operation of schools from March 18-27 because of the pandemic.
The governor’s March 25 “Stay at Home” order asks Minnesotans to “limit their movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs.” The plan is intended to reduce social interactions and decrease the transmission of COVID-19 so hospitals and, more specifically, intensive care units are not overwhelmed by a rapid influx of COVID-19 patients.
“While the virus will still be here when this order ends, this action will slow the spread of COVID-19 and give Minnesota time to ready for battle,” said Walz.
According to a press release issued by the governor’s office on March 25, the most recent modeling by the Minnesota Department of Health and University of Minnesota predicts that more than 70,000 Minnesotans could die from COVID-19 if no action is taken. The governor’s two-week order to stay home is forecasted to significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 and allow the state to better prepare for the pandemic. These preparations include building hospital capacity, increasing access to life-saving equipment like ventilators, increasing testing, planning for how to care for vulnerable populations, and assessing public health data to determine which community mitigation strategies are most effective.
What the 'Shelter in Place' order means for Minnesotans
You may leave your home or residence only to perform any of the following activities, and while doing so, residents should practice social distancing:
- Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies
- Outdoor activities, such as walking pets, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing
- Necessary supplies and services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out
- Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state
- Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household
- Displacement, such as moving between emergency or homeless shelters if you are without a home
- Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home is unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons
- Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation
What are some of the more common businesses or services that will remain open?
Pharmacies, food shelves, liquor stores, convenience stores, childcare services, news organizations, gas stations, funeral homes, banks, hardware stores and post offices.
What are some of the more common businesses or services that will be closed?
Dine-in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms and fitness centers, zoos, museums, arcades, playgrounds, bowling alleys, movie theaters, concert halls, country clubs, salons, barber shops, and tattoo parlors.
State officials were quick to note that grocery stores would remain open and there was no need for the public to rush out and stock up on supplies.
For more details on the state’s response to COVID-19, go to: https://mn.gov/governor/covid-19/