(TNS) - With students settled in for the start of a new school year, Winona County Emergency Management is reminding individuals of the COVID-19 restrictions that are in place and the reason for them.
Winona County Emergency Management director Ben Klinger emphasized Wednesday that COVID-19 has been a learning experience for everybody, including his office, but that compliance with state-mandated orders are the key to preventing the spread of the illness.
“Unfortunately, we’re in this for the long haul,” Klinger said, “so we need to keep this up and keep working as a team, keep respecting each other and we’ll get through this together. We look forward to the days on the other side.”
Klinger noted that individuals need to remember that CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines apply everywhere, including in homes.
Outside of permanent residents for homes, gatherings need to be limited to 10 people if indoors and 25 people if outdoors. If a gathering takes place at a venue setting, then the limit must not exceed 25% of its total capacity.
Not only does COVID-19 impact individuals, but also the way they patronize businesses.
Christie Ransom, president and CEO of the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce, reflected much of what Klinger said, but added that people need to be vigilant when interacting with others, especially in businesses.
“I ask you to assume that everyone you come into contact with may be infected, may be contagious, even if they don’t have symptoms, and that we treat all encounters as a potential risk,” Ransom said. “That includes when you go into a place of business.”
Ransom said that businesses are utilizing their COVID-19 restrictions in an attempt to prevent its spread.
“Honor social distancing, honor their rules and regulations,” Ransom said. “Understand that they’re doing it for your safety and for your protection and theirs.”
“I want everyone to know that we are working every day to make sure that our businesses thrive and that our community can continue to be served by the unique and vibrant businesses in our community,” Ransom added. “Be kind, be understanding, be empathetic and help us protect our businesses and keep our community open.”
Failure to comply with state-mandated orders can lead to repercussions, Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman said, which can be especially severe.
Sonneman reminded the community that anybody who willfully disobeys state-mandated orders can face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of $1,000.
“My office will not hesitate to prosecute cases of willful violations of the mask order, the social distancing order and the events restriction order of 2074 that puts others at risk of contracting COVID-19,” Sonneman said.
The repercussions are worse for business owners and people in leadership positions who encourage their employees to violate state orders.
Sonneman said a business owner or a person in a leadership position can be charged with a gross misdemeanor, a $1,000 fine and even imprisonment for up to a year, while businesses specifically can face misdemeanor and civil sanctions.
“All of us play a role in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Sonneman said. “The virus does not magically appear in workplace settings, in senior-care settings, in our schools and universities and community. Its presence reflects the spread from individuals who choose to ignore social distancing and masks and otherwise willfully disregard (public health measures).”
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