After Wednesday’s announcement by Gov. Tim Walz about what is allowed to open June 1 and how several state businesses were supposed to operate, many community members were shocked and upset on the restrictions that were still in place. Several state officials and organization leaders were also frustrated by the announcement.

“The guidance the governor announced (Wednesday) doesn’t come anywhere close to providing businesses with the ability to safely reopen soon enough,” Rep. Bud Nornes said. “And, the fact he is waiting until June 1 to provide even the slightest breathing room means Memorial Day will be a lost weekend for so many of our hospitality businesses. This is disappointing to say the least because we are losing businesses by the day and today’s announcement by the governor undoubtedly will seal the fate for many more.”

Minnesota Chamber of Commerce president Doug Loon also questioned the limited options for businesses across the state.

“While continued progress to reopen is important, we hoped the governor would take more meaningful steps (Wednesday), Loon said. “We understand the focus on safety, and so do businesses that have protection plans in place and are ready to open. The approach announced doesn’t sufficiently recognize the ability of businesses – many of them small businesses – to innovate and protect employees and customers.”

Locally, citizens still question why local restaurants and businesses are being held to higher restrictions than those of big chain stores and industries.

“I think there are a lot of people in Fergus Falls that are confused by the order as far as why certain businesses or industries are allowed to have 50 people outside while others remain confined to 10 and others are still not allowed to gather,” Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer said. “This frustration is completely understandable. We continue to work with state officials, urging them to allow local input in the decision-making process, to consider and take into account local conditions. In Fergus Falls, I think it is very important that people feel the decisions being made reflect the conditions in our community.”

While restaurants were able to open, it could only be done with reservations, outdoor seating and with limited capacity. Several restaurants throughout the county have limited outside seating.

In Fergus Falls, the city is offering picnic tables and barriers to help businesses create space outside their establishments for dining. Many restaurants have said they will continue their pickup or delivery service that they have transitioned to during the stay-at-home order.

Another aspect of the Phase I reopening is religious services. Many expected the order to allow for a limited in-person church service to be announced but were surprised when the order continued a 10-person or less meeting for services.

On Friday, President Donald Trump called on state governors to reopen churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship immediately.  Trump, in comments from the White House, call houses of worship “essential places that provide essential services.”

In Fergus Falls, multiple messages on Facebook and other social media platforms have asked for churches to be reopen. Federated Church Pastor Doug Dent said that they are focused on the safety of the church’s congregation, while still offering online devotion and worship opportunities.

“Federated Church continues to respond compassionately to the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting the Fergus Falls and surrounding communities by offering multiple devotion and worship opportunities online each week,” Dent said. “Federated Church is also providing financial services to assist the city of Fergus Falls and the Sunrise Rotary Club in their administration of the Community Food Shelf. With grace and humor, we are abiding by denominational guidelines to keep people safe while seeking new and creative ways to carry out our mission of loving God and our neighbors.”

The state’s Catholic Church leaders, as well as Lutheran leaders from Wisconsin and Missouri synods, said they would defy the governor’s order and resume services next week.

When contacting local Catholic leaders, The Journal was referred to St. Cloud diocese spokesman Joe Towalski. A message was left with Towalski, but was not returned before press time. 

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