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Police chief, sheriff ready to educate residents on Walz’s order

MARSHALL — The “stay at home” order issued by Gov. Tim Walz is slated to take effect at midnight today, but local law enforcement officials say people are already taking the order pretty seriously.

“We’ve had a lot of calls about what the order allows and does not allow,” said Lyon County Sheriff Eric Wallen. While it’s important for people to keep practicing social distancing as the number of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota grows, Wallen and Marshall Public Safety Director Jim Marshall said their focus isn’t on strict enforcement of the order.

“The key with it is to educate,” Wallen said. “The order doesn’t lock you in your house,” he said, but it does call for people to limit their contact with others, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The crucial thing to remember about the order, Marshall said, is “It’s obviously about the safety and wellbeing of the people of Minnesota.”

The governor’s order calls for Minnesotans to stay home for a period of at least two weeks, from March 27 to April 10. The move is meant to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, and keep from overwhelming hospitals and Intensive Care Units.

However, Wallen said, “There is a multitude of places people are still allowed to travel.” Simply being outside, or driving in a car, is not going to get a person pulled over by law enforcement, he said. At the same time, Minnesota’s normal laws and traffic rules still apply.

Under the stay-at-home order, Minnesotans can still go outside for exercise and recreational activities like walking, biking, hunting or fishing. They can go out to buy groceries, gasoline or takeout food. They can go to take care of a friend or family member in another household, or to get emergency services or medical supplies. Essential travel, and relocating to a different place for safety reasons, are also allowed.

Workers in essential services, like health care, child care, law enforcement, food and agriculture and critical manufacturing are all exempt from the stay-at-home order.

While they are outside their homes, Minnesotans should practice social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and close contact with other people.

“It’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing, for the most part,” Marshall said.

Marshall said he’s encouraging people to check out the COVID-19 information available on the city of Marshall’s website, ci.marshall.mn.us. The information includes an overview of the governor’s order, as well as links to frequently asked questions, and local information from Marshall city leaders.

Wallen said it’s not really surprising that people have been asking questions about what the order means.

“This is new for everyone,” he said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It really seems like people want to do the right thing.”

Wallen said concerns about preventing exposure to COVID-19 have also affected operations at the Lyon County Jail. Wallen said one of the holding blocks in the jail has been set aside for new inmates, who are kept separated from the general population for 14 days. He said all inmates also have daily health screenings, which include having their temperature taken and answering questions about their health and condition.

At the same time, Wallen said, Lyon County District Court is also prioritizing cases, to limit the number of people gathering in court each day.

“Some of that has reduced how many people come into the jail,” Wallen said.

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