Renville County has concerns about mask compliance

Renville County is confident that its management of the pandemic is strong, but worries that the public resolve is weakening

Linda Bahe wears a mask while walking in the Menards parking lot last July in Willmar. The Renville County Board of Commissioners Tuesday discussed concerns about the public's compliance with the mask mandate. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

OLIVIA — Renville County’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic is strong, but there are worries that public resolve may be weakening.

The public’s compliance with the face mask requirement is not what it should be, according to a discussion between the Renville County Board of Commissioners and representatives of the county’s incident command team, including Jill Bruns, public health director, and Mike Hennen, emergency management director.

As of Tuesday morning, the county has reported 107 positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to Bruns. Of the total, 25 of the cases were reported in the last two weeks.

Overall, the county has a current case rate of 17.11. It means that elementary schools can continue in-class, face-to-face instruction and that middle and high schools can offer hybrid instruction with both online and in-person classes.

The median age of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county is 36, meaning that one half of those infected to date have been under 36 years of age and one half over. The mean is 41.5 years, reflecting the fact that some of the infected have been very elderly persons, Bruns explained.


The greatest share of those newly infected are working people ages 20 to 60. “(They are) working in all sorts of jobs,” said Bruns. The predominance of working age victims is somewhat of a surprise, as many had anticipated that socially active teenagers and young adults would represent the greater share of new cases.

Bruns said the public health agency is continuing to monitor and inspect businesses for compliance with COVID precautions. One business will be required to pay for a re-inspection after two complaints for non-compliance.

The commissioners said they are continuing to see many people not wearing masks in public settings as required, although they noted the problem is hardly unique to Renville County. Commissioner Randy Kramer pointed out that a family member recently went to pick up an item at a Kandiyohi County business and that of 16 people inside at the time, she was the only one wearing a mask. Just weeks earlier, the business had a table set up outside and only curbside pickups were allowed.

Commissioner Greg Snow said there is a “disconnect” over the mask mandate. He was at a country club in a neighboring county where all of the guests arrived wearing masks, but everyone removed them once seated, as if the virus no longer existed. “You are up against people’s common sense,” he said of the dilemma of when mask wearing is and is not required.

Bruns and Hennen pointed out that the county incident command team includes representatives from a wide variety of organizations, making it a “totally unified” approach. The command team meetings will be cut back from twice to once a month, as things are going well, they said.

Hennen said supplies of personal protective equipment are good, masks included. The county has a six- to eight-month inventory of supplies.

One ongoing concern is the challenge of staffing for long-term care facilities, said Bruns. Long-term care facilities experienced staffing shortages prior to the pandemic, and now face greater challenges, she explained.

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