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Lake County officials update Emergency Operation Plan to include COVID-19 measures

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SILVER BAY, MN -- Several counties in the Northland are working with state health officials to adapt their emergency plans.

Many are out of date, and as the number of COVID-19 cases increases in Minnesota, local leaders want to be ready.

One county updating their Emergency Operations Plan - Lake County. County officials are getting ready in case coronavirus comes to the area.

"The whole state is working together, and in our region, we have conference calls almost every day with our regional emergency management partners, with our regional epidemiologists, with all of our healthcare providers," said Lake County's Emergency Management Director, B.J. Kohlstedt.

Kohlstedt says Lake County's Emergency Operations Plan was last updated in 2009, during the H1N1 epidemic. It's now being altered for COVID-19, as the CDC learns more information.

"We are always updating it with new data as the disease spreads to different jurisdictions. It helps us learn who are the most severely affected, who are at risk, who are not. We are also updating our contacts all the time," Kohlstedt said.

In the plan, the Minnesota Department of Health takes the lead.

The county would provide more localized help, like assisting first responders, and helping people in quarantine.

County officials met Monday with local and regional organizations, including hospitals and schools, to make sure plans are consistent.

"We have isolation and quarantine plans. We have counter-measure plans, which is where we would provide vaccines when they become available, and we have the social distancing plan. We want to make sure that we're all on the same page with this," Kohlstedt said.

Kohlstedt said for now, the county is feeling confident.

"We've been through this before. Lake County Public Health, all of the state and all of our public health partners, we've gone through epidemics before. We have the plans. They worked well in 2009, and we expect them to work well again," Kohlstedt said.

Kohlstedt reiterates that everyone is their own best protection against becoming sick by taking proper precautions.

She also says the Minnesota Department of Health's website is the best place to get current, local information on the disease.

Jenna Wells

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