Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Whitmer executes 'stay home' order

Gov. Tony Evers to order closure of ‘nonessential businesses’ today


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Ironwood — Local officials are adjusting to a statewide stay at home order and are asking for compliance from area residents.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order 2020-21, is effective Tuesday and for at least the next three weeks. The order temporarily suspends in-person operations and business that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.

 “This is an unprecedented crisis that requires all of us working together to protect our families and our communities,” Whitmer said. 

The order directs residents to stay at home unless part of a critical infrastructure workforce. Other exemptions include being engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family, such as going to a hospital or grocery store.

“The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary,” Whitmer said. “If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives.” 

Michigan is currently in the top five states in the nation in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. In just 13 days the state increased from zero COVID-19 cases to more than 1,000, Whitmer said in the announcement.

Scott Erickson, city manager for Ironwood, said residents and businesses are encouraged to follow the executive order that is law. 

“It’s something that individuals and businesses need to comply with,” Erickson said. “The purpose is to create some physical distance between each other, to help break that chain of contacts that are spreading the virus.”

The city needs to take this order seriously as the virus is spreading and becoming a serious health issue in many communities, he said. Essential services for the city remain in place with public safety and public works able to respond, along with contact phone numbers and emails for staff of city departments posted on the city’s website and Facebook page. 

“We are able and ready to respond to city requests as they come in but on the phone or email,” Erickson said.

Staff can still respond to questions from home and try to address issues as they come up, he said.

“Non-essential travel is leisure travel,” said Heidi DeRosso, the Gogebic County Emergency Management and 911 coordinator. “Travel if you must if you have medical needs, family emergencies and stuff that comes up, but we’re discouraging leisure travel at this time.”

The Emergency Management office has been in regular communication with state and local agencies, she said. With the governor’s order and the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the Upper Peninsula announced in Chippewa County the activity has stepped up.

“At this point there are multiple conference calls and webinars daily at the local and state level and everything in between,” DeRosso said.

After weeks of planning for the health event the situation is now a waiting game, she said. People are just keeping themselves well informed by remaining in contact to do all they can to hopefully flatten the community spread of the virus, she said.

With the increase in coronavirus activity nearer to the area there is a strong effort to get more personal protective equipment for first responders and medical staff from the state, she said. 

The public can help by observing the shutdown of all non-essential business and travel for at least three weeks as stated by the general order from the governor, she said. The less chance there is for transmission of the virus the less chance a first responder or health worker will contract the virus. 

If anyone thinks they are developing symptoms for COVID-19 the first call should be to his or her health provider, she said. Aspirus and Western Upper Peninsula Health Department also have dedicated phone lines for testing and questions, she said.

The COVID-19 Testing Call Center, is staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The call center toll-free line is 1-844-568-0701, and can also be reached via the Aspirus Ironwood Clinic phone tree at 906-932-1500, followed by *8 (star 8).

For questions about the state’s actions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

“But we do not want people who think they have it (COVID-19) to just show up at their local hospitals,” DeRosso said.

The order also prohibits public and private gatherings of any number that occur outside a single residence. The order prohibits travel except for necessary purposes, to engage in outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, running, cycling or any recreational activity, consistent with remaining at least six feet from other people. 

Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich said his department has prepared action plans in place. The goal is to protect staff and inmates from exposure to the virus.

“I am just asking residents to adhere to the order,” Matonich said. “We are looking for voluntary compliance of course.”

Voluntary compliance is needed throughout the county based on the CDC requirements and the governor’s office order, he said. Law enforcement is not going to gate the city or pull people off the street but voluntary compliance makes the community that much safer, he said. 

“If anyone has any problems, concerns or needs assistance they should call us directly or call 911,” Matonich said.

Deputies have been educated on how to best keep a distance during their patrols and responses to calls. Public interaction at the station has been scaled back by temporarily ceasing with fingerprinting and not allowing walk-in traffic on a daily basis.

The department is working with the county prosecutor’s office and the courts to reduce the daily inmate population, he said. This is done on a case by case basis and involves reducing bond amounts, early releases and delayed sentencing for nonviolent offenders.

“We’re working on keeping our jail population as low as possible to save us from any exposure to the virus,” Matonich said.

Gogebic-Iron County Airport remains open and flights are scheduled, said Shane Storz, CEO of Air Choice One airline by phone from St. Louis on Monday. The exemption is for critical community infrastructure including medical, transportation, construction under the Essential Air Service agreement, he said.

“We’re doing normal business but we’re taking the CDC precautions,” Storz said. “We are reducing the number of employees who are going to and from work and they are exempt as critical to the infrastructure of the community.”

Normal operations and passenger service continues with some cancellations, he said. This is due to lack of activity with the large airlines that will cancel flights if seats are filled.

“We are not canceling any Ironwood trips that we are aware of at this time,” Storz said. 

Airport staff and plane crews are practicing social distancing and disinfecting the eight-seat planes after each flight, he said. Masks are not required but are OK to wear, he said.

Passengers who schedule a flight are updated via email with any new information, he said.

“I think everyone is trying to do their best for the exempt operations,” Storz said. “They do social distancing while trying to keep the county running.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Monday urged the public to stay home as much as they are able to help protect the health and safety of Wisconsin’s healthcare workers. He said the state would also issue a stay at home order effective today.

Hurley Mayor Paul Mullard is self-quarantined at home after returning from a trip to California last week, said Kathy Byrns, city deputy clerk and treasurer. 

“We’ve been in contact with him over the phone,” Byrns said. “We are doing whatever the health department and the police department are telling us we should be doing.”

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