Lake Country Cares is a COVID-19 safety campaign designed to build trust among residents, visitors and local businesses. The goal of the campaign is to help ensure consistent, best practices that place the safety of everyone first to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 as businesses continue to open.

As described on the Lake Country Cares website: “It’s our community promise to take care of each other by adopting easy and effective practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 - breath shielding (this includes face masks, face shields, plexiglass or other barriers when appropriate), social distancing, sanitizing surfaces, and washing hands - sending a strong message that our businesses are putting the health and safety of their customers and employees first. Working together, we want our area to lead the way in COVID-19 safety as life resumes in Minnesota. We are safer together.”

“Our vision is simple, but challenging. When we work together as a regional community, we all have the ability to be known for being a place that is equally safe and open for business,” Bill Brekken, Crow Wing County commissioner, said in a news release. “Together, we as people, we as health care organizations, we as chambers of commerce - we all have the ability to place the safety of our fellow neighbors, employees, customers and businesses first. And when we do that, we as a region will be safer together.”

The Lake Country Cares safety campaign is a collaborative project among regional businesses, health care organizations, chambers of commerce, media, local government and other community organizations. Its regional partners include: Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Essentia Health and Lakewood Health System; the chambers of commerce for Brainerd Lakes, Crosslake, Cuyuna Lakes, Nisswa and Pequot Lakes; Initiative Foundation; Crow Wing County; and Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation.

“We're in this together and by following a consistent safety process, we’re safer together,” Amanda McGregor, Nisswa Chamber of Commerce president, said in the news release. “As a regional network of businesses, the more we align our safety practices, the more confidence we'll see in our customers. Our region has always taken care of each other and now we get to prove it and be leaders in Minnesota.”

Before reopening, all businesses will need to develop individual COVID-19 Preparedness Plans as directed by the state of Minnesota. The Preparedness Plan must be posted, follow a template and cover items unique to the business.

Lake Country Cares assists businesses in their opening process by posting the state guidelines, Preparedness Plan template and checklist on the Lake Country Cares website. As a courtesy, the Crow Wing County Health Department has volunteered to help review plans to ensure they meet state guidelines.

Businesses may choose whether they’d like county health staff to provide input. There is a button on the Lake Country Cares website to submit plans.

Completed business Preparedness Plans that are submitted on the Lake Country Cares website will be posted to the website so area residents, visitors and businesses can view the safety precautions that have been implemented at each business. Digital materials, as well as posters, will be provided to participating businesses for use at their locations.

“We decided to take the best points of both sides on this safety discussion and create Lake Country Cares as an entire region,” Tim Houle, Crow Wing County administrator, said in the news release. “We need safety first, along with the ability for businesses to reopen through the new lens of safety. Businesses will lead with preparedness plans and put safety measures in place, and customers will have the opportunity to return the favor.”

Learn more about the Lake Country Cares COVID-19 safety campaign at www.lakecountrycares.com and follow it on Facebook.