Council meets again with church, business leaders

Local News

Winnebago City Council appears to be sitting on the fence to letting those providing “non-essential” services to fully re-open in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a special meeting Thursday night, church and business leaders got another chance to air their concerns with Gov. Tim Walz’s “executive order” aimed at slowing spread of the coronavirus.

City Administrator Jake Skluzacek says after a good discussion the council decided to lend its support by encouraging Walz to further relax his restrictions.

That will come by way of a resolution recommended, he says, by the League of Minnesota Cities.

“It does not say we are willing to not enforce the executive order, but it does still show our support for businesses and churches affected by his orders,” says Skluzacek.

Daren Barnett, pastor at First Baptist Church, says he wasn’t too pleased with the outcome of the meeting.

“It is un-American to have the state say anything in regard to worship and practice of religion. It is tyrannical,” he says. “The precedent is being set for the future and it is bleak for the nation if others do not stand up for freedom.”

Barnett says his congregation held services on Sunday adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Currently, in-person worship services of more than 10 people are banned. However, under an executive order beginning Wednesday churches may open at 25 percent capacity as long as they follow public health guidelines.

The new order extends to funerals and weddings, but does not include wakes, wedding receptions or graduations.

The venues must ensure six-foot social distancing is maintained and that capacity does not exceed a maximum of 250 people at indoor or outdoor settings.

Congregations that choose to re-open must develop preparedness plans, including detailed cleaning practices and social-distancing guidelines. Also, the state health department recommends all congregants wear masks and refrain from group singing.

On May 18, most retail stores were allowed to be open if they had a plan in place to keep their customers and staff safe.

Beginning June 1 bars and restaurants can serve customers outdoors, while barbers and salons can operate indoors at partial capacity if customers wear masks.

Outdoor seating for bars and restaurants tables must allow at least 6 feet of space between customers and tables can only serve four people or six if the people are all part of “one family unit.”

Workers will have to wear masks and reservations will be required. Patrons will be encouraged to wear masks and no more than 50 people can be on a business premise at any time.

Personal care businesses — which includes hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors – will have to implement a COVID-19 plan and can have only 25 percent of capacity at any time. Walk-in service is banned and both the customer and worker will have to wear a mask at all times.

Council members are planning to hold a special meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. to approve the resolution.

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