Cook County line. Submitted photo
Submitted photo

As some North Shore resorts aim to reopen, Walz extends stay-at-home order until May 18

Visitors planning to travel to the North Shore or anywhere in Cook County should wait for more than two weeks before they do so, according to Gov. Tim Walz, who extended his stay-at-home order today.

During a press briefing, Walz announced a statewide stay-at-home order will remain in place until at least May 18 in Minnesota, as concerns continue over the COVID-19 pandemic. The order was set to expire Monday, May 4. Under the order, Walz says Minnesotans should remain at home except to perform essential tasks.

Some of the largest resorts and businesses that operate short-term vacation rentals on the North Shore and throughout the county were planning to reopen Tuesday, May 5. In recent days, WTIP confirmed with multiple lodging organizations that, at least prior to the governor’s press conference, they planned to honor reservations starting next week. Legally speaking, resorts in Cook County and throughout Minnesota can accept guests and reservations at this time. That being the case, the stay-at-home order continues to discourage unnecessary travel, and the order asks people to remain close to their homes.

In late March, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed their own resolution independent from the governor’s stay-at-home order advising people not to travel to Cook County at this time.

A high percentage of elderly people among local, permanent residents and the lack of medical infrastructure are the reasons for the travel-advisory restrictions in Cook County, Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk said during a public meeting March 24.

The county board has not modified or rescinded their travel advisory to date, meaning it is still considered the stance of county officials at this time for tourists, travelers and non-residents. The county board’s next meeting is May 5.

Regarding outdoor recreation, Walz did not directly address the Fishing Opener in Minnesota set for Saturday, May 9. Fishing is allowed under the current reading of the stay-at-home order, but only close to one’s home and ‘the community’ where they live, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is closed to public use until May 4. Furthermore, all camping on Superior National Forest, including the BWCA, is not allowed at this time. As it is managed federally by the US Forest Service, there would need to be an additional announcement to extend the closure of the BWCA beyond May 4.

In recent weeks, reports of large crowds at state parks on the North Shore, including people from the Twin Cities, brought into question how serious the stay-at-home order was being followed and adhered to.

“People are moving around,” Walz said today.

It is possible for law enforcement to issue citations against people who are found not following the stay-at-home order. The county resolution passed by the Cook County Commissioners in March is not enforceable by law.

Walz, meanwhile, said today he is allowing more retail businesses to open, albeit under a curbside pickup option. It’s likely some of the retail shops in downtown Grand Marais and other places throughout the county could open in this capacity. Restaurants are allowed to continue operations with only curbside pickup or delivery. Hair salons and barber shops are not allowed to reopen under the extended stay-at-home order.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Minnesota came on March 6. As of today, there more than 5,000 confirmed cases throughout the state, with 342 fatalities.

There are no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Cook County.