Minnesota is in the midst of our Memorial Day weekend and the coronavirus pandemic. It is the traditional start of Minnesota's summer season, a time for family, friends and fun. This summer we face a silent killer that we cannot see.

First, it is important to recognize the purpose of Memorial Day, a time to remember and honor those who died in defense of the United States. In the beginning, Decoration Day originated to remember and honor those who died fighting in the American Civil War. Early the next century, Memorial Day evolved after World War I following the corresponding loss of life. At the height of the Vietnam War, Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday on the last Monday in May.

Due to the pandemic, many traditional Memorial Day ceremonies will not be held. However, you can still visit your local ceremonies, decorate the graves and honor those United States veterans, especially those who died in defense of our country.

You can also join citizens around the country in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to pause in an act of remembrance for one minute.

It is the least we could do.

Second, Memorial Day weekend is often a time of celebrations, travel and vacation. Millions have already hit the roads and byways across Minnesota. The recent lower gas prices will make travel even more affordable. And after two months of stay-at-home, Minnesotans certainly are itching to get back to normal and relax with family and friends. However, there are two dangers this holiday season — travel and pandemic concerns.

Travel — Certainly, travel is expected to be lower than Memorial Day weekends of previous years. In fact, for the first time in 20 years, AAA is not even issuing a Memorial Day travel forecast. In 2019, 43 million Americans traveled for the holiday weekend, the second-highest travel volume on record. The majority of that travel was by car. The danger this year may not be in traffic volume, but the higher speeds at which vehicles are traveling due to less traffic amid pandemic concerns.

Coronavirus — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still recommending that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travels. AAA is recommending people heed all official federal and state directives to decrease the spread of COVID-19. The Minnesota Department of Transportation reminded drivers to travel safely — especially in work zones.

In west central Minnesota, here are significant work zones.

  • Highway 23, Cottonwood to Granite Falls — Road closed and detour.

  • Highway 12 and 22, Litchfield — Roads closed and detour.
  • Highway 15, Hutchinson — Road closed and detour.
  • Highway 29, Montevideo — Bridge closed and detour.
  • Highway 40, near Milan — Bridge closed and detour.
  • Highway 71, Windom to Jackson — Lanes closed and detour.

Third, Memorial Day weekend is the first extended weekend of the summer on the water. This is often the first time for family and friends on the beautiful lakes and rivers of Minnesota. Please practice water safety and be water-smart.

  • Supervise all children in or near water.
  • Wear life jackets on the dock, in the boat and on the water.
  • Put your cell phone away when on or near water.
  • Consume your adult beverages in moderation, especially on the water.

Finally, enjoy the holiday weekend. The West Central Tribune wishes you and yours a memorable and safe Memorial Day weekend.