Cook County line. Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Cook County continues to discuss travel advisory amid pandemic

Cook County officials continue to discuss a travel advisory as the COVID-19 pandemic remains at the forefront of county operations and community health, with one commissioner explaining during a public meeting that the county is not a travel agency and needs to be mindful of community health.

“We are not the EDA, and we are not a marketing firm,” Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk said during a meeting of the Cook County Board Tuesday, May 26.

During a special meeting of the commissioners May 19, the county board updated the original travel advisory it passed in late March. Again this week, the board discussed the necessity of updating the travel advisory on an as-needed basis. Commissioner Dave Mills said Tuesday that it’s possible the county could need to update its travel advisory on a weekly basis as more businesses reopen or as news about the new coronavirus changes on the North Shore and in Cook County.

The initial reading of the Cook County travel advisory passed in March emphasized to visitors, though never directly said, to stay away from the county so healthcare workers could plan and prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. Updated versions of the travel advisory have more closely aligned with Gov. Tim Walz’s now expired ‘stay-at-home’ order and the current ‘Stay Safe MN’ policy.

As of the board meeting May 26 and the most recent public discussion of the travel advisory, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cook County.

Doo-Kirk said it remains important to keep certain language in the travel advisory that some in the local business community did not want to have included. With that in mind, Doo-Kirk added that healthcare officials are asking the county to use certain language about social distancing that perhaps the business community did not want in the updated travel advisory. Doo-Kirk said the commissioners need to keep public health at the forefront of any decisions they make regarding the travel advisory and the COVID-19 pandemic.

After lengthy discussion on the travel advisory, the commissioners voted to approve a series of updates to language within the public document. The commissioners will likely continue discussing the travel advisory on a reoccurring and frequent basis.

Also this week, Cook County Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager shared an update from the local Emergency Operations Center in Grand Marais. Grinager specifically addressed Memorial Day weekend and ongoing discussions with the local business community about compliance with requests by some to wear a mask while visiting retail stores or other local businesses in the community. Overall, Grinager said there was moderate compliance with the requests to wear face coverings during the holiday weekend, but not excellent, meaning that some people did not honor the requests of some business owners to wear a mask.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Interim Cook County Administrator Rena Rogers about this week’s meeting of the county board and the travel advisory.