Crow Wing County commissioners unanimously voted to switch to all virtual county services at an emergency board meeting held Thursday, Nov. 12. Effective Monday, Nov. 16, entry to all county buildings is restricted, while all county functions will continue to be available online, by phone and by appointment.

The rapid rise of positive COVID-19 case counts was the No. 1 reason behind the decision to switch to virtual service delivery of all government functions. In one week there were 560 new cases in Crow Wing County, which is 27.8% of all of the cases in the county since the pandemic began in March.

“We are not alone in making a decision like this. Many schools, health care, businesses and organizations are reconsidering steps to ensure the safety of everyone as our numbers continue to climb,” Board Chair Steve Barrows said in a news release. “Public health and safety is always our top priority. Our discussion to reach this decision was made to stay focused, protecting each other, while continuing to provide needed and necessary services to our communities.”

The board also voted to grant the county administrator the ability to grant exceptions and to switch all county board meetings to virtual.

“I want to reassure our residents that staff will continue to work and offer the same services we always have,” County Administrator Tim Houle said in the news release. “Our snowplows will be out, our deputies will be patrolling our roads and all of our services will be available. We ask everyone to stay vigilant and continue to social distance, wear a mask, wash hands and stay home when you are sick to help keep disruptions across our county to a minimum.”

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Staff will continue to provide services online, by phone and by appointment. There is a drop box in front of the Land Services building at 322 Laurel St. in Brainerd. There is also a drop boy in front of the Community Services building at 204 Laurel St. If you have been working with a social worker or probation officer, continue to communicate with them directly. If you have questions, call 218-824-1067 or visit https://www.crowwing.us/ or email at coadmin@crowwing.us.

County board meetings can be viewed live on the county's website or YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC26vWNxmHm1RfoJIlj7XHCQ. Anyone interested in participating in a county board meeting or public forum should contact the County Administrator's Office at 218-824-1067.

The county board will determine at a later date to change from virtual services after evaluating the county case numbers.