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City taking more steps to protect workers

MARSHALL — Cases of COVID-19 have been on an upward trend in Marshall, and city officials say local government offices will be taking steps to keep city workers healthy.

On Friday, the city of Marshall announced it will be asking visitors to call ahead and schedule an appointment before coming to city offices at the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University. The new policy takes effect today, and will last until the end of the year.

Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said so far, Marshall city departments still have enough staff to keep vital services running. However, it will be important to keep being careful going forward.

Earlier in the pandemic, COVID-19 positivity rates had been low among city employees, Hanson said. However, within the past three weeks or so, “Our positivity rate has neared what the state is seeing,” she said.

In addition to limiting the amount of face-to-face interaction with the public, Hanson said it’s possible for city staff to take precautions like going back to holding more virtual meetings.

“We’ve done a lot through technology, she said.

In addition to asking people to limit in-person visits to city offices, Hanson and Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said some city activities are being paused to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Behind-the-wheel driving instruction, and in-person activities at the Adult Community Center, are both being paused until Nov. 30. However, Meals on Wheels will still provide home deliver and curbside pickup, he said. Adult basketball and volleyball leagues will be paused until Jan. 1. Adult Basic Education offices and classes at the SMSU campus are closed until further notice.

“As I think everybody knows, the situation is becoming more serious within the community, within the region and within the state,” Byrnes said in a video message to the community. The city of Marshall is continuing to work under emergency operations guidelines meant to keep important city services running, Byrnes said.

On Friday, Byrnes and Avera Marshall Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Meister filmed a video message on the city’s Facebook page, urging community members to take COVID-19 precautions seriously.

“There’s a lot of skepticism about masks. Masks work,” Meister said. “Wear your masks, please.”

While it’s hard to do during the holiday season, Meister urged area residents to limit gatherings to their immediate family only.

“That’s not what we like to hear, but this is a serious disease,” he said.

“We are now at a point where hospitals are becoming full, and it’s not just in Marshall, it’s not just in Sioux Falls, it is the entire upper Midwest,” Meister said. “There’s just not that many ICU beds left in the state.”

Meister said hospitals were taking measures like performing fewer elective surgeries, in order to keep beds open for seriously ill people. The good news, he said, was that medical care providers are learning a lot about how to treat COVID-19, and death rates are going down.

“We still don’t know everything, but we are making some headway,” he said.

Meister said he was hopeful that a vaccine will start to become available in 2021, but people will likely need to continue taking COVID-19 precautions and social distancing for at least the next six to 12 months.

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