As everyone is now aware, the COVID-19 virus has changed our lives in ways none of us could have imagined. We are working remotely, not congregating in public spaces and keeping an even closer eye on our neighbors who are in need. In order to minimize the negative impacts of this pandemic, it will take all of us working together, including your city.

Therefore, this past Monday, March 16, 2020, I issued a local emergency declaration. Much as Gov. Walz described the March 13 declaration of a statewide peacetime emergency as “opening the toolbox,” this local declaration activates the portion of the city’s pandemic plan that is necessary for response and recovery to the coronavirus outbreak. Fire Chief Steve Koering and City Manager Tom Harmening are leading this emergency effort, in coordination with all our city staff.

Our friends and partners at STEP, Wayside Recovery Center, Perspectives and many other community organizations are going to need your help and support over the next months now more than ever. Experience has shown that in times of stress, donations go down while the needs skyrocket. If you’re looking for a way to help while still physical distancing, consider giving to an organization that helps those in need. Check in by phone and email with your friends and neighbors. Nextdoor is an excellent way to connect with those closest to you and coordinate assistance. You can also connect with your neighborhood leaders directly.

Local businesses, including restaurants and bars, are also going to need our support. The purchase of gift cards or using takeout or delivery options may help small business owners weather the storm. If you are a business owner who needs help during this time, the city’s economic development staff has gathered a list of resources.

As this difficult and uncertain crisis rapidly develops, I want to assure you the city is working hard to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone who lives in, works in and visits St. Louis Park. Slowing the spread of coronavirus is a serious matter that will require extraordinary efforts from us all. Do your part by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health tips, practice physical distancing, shop smart and help those in need.

In closing I want to thank all the residents and businesses in St. Louis Park who have reached out to me offering their services and support, even when it may not have been in their own self-interest.

Please feel free to reach out to me or your city council member if you have observations, suggestions or questions.

Working together, we’ll get through this.

Jake Spano is the mayor of St. Louis Park.

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