No reported cases here, but lakes area feels impact of coronavirus

Stores see huge sales as a cascade of postponements, restrictions and cancellations bring unprecedented disruptions to daily life.

baxter Cub Fooks grocery manager Tom Arms (left) and owner Chris Quisberg talk about the high Demand for toilet paper Friday, March 13, in front of the empty toilet paper shelves at the Baxter store. Since the first news of the Coronavirus outbreak, retailers have seen a rush on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — “I’m trying to do the best I can, I promise you,” said Tom Arms, grocery manager at Cub Foods in Baxter, while he chatted with shoppers before a row of shelves — much of them bare, except for a lonely empty cardboard carton perched in the middle of the aisle.

Toilet paper. Hand sanitizer. Bottled water. These can be hard to come by these days at Cub Foods and many stores throughout the lakes area, Arms said Friday, March 13. Friday marked the start of a national emergency commenced by President Donald Trump to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as it popped up in increasingly concerning numbers across the nation. Two cases were confirmed as close as Stearns County.

It was also about two weeks out from the next shipment of these products, which means Cub Foods — and, in turn, many of its customers — may have to coast for a while. This is uncharted territory for Arms and Cub Foods owner Chris Quisberg, who described the rush of shoppers scooping up household necessities as a panic.


“It’s pure panic for sure,” Quisberg said. “Our sales are through the roof. … We're not out of a whole lot of things other than toilet paper. The hand sanitizer has been really bad. But for the most part, we're sitting right now pretty stocked in our shelves.”

“I know that Cub is looking at different scenarios like if it is forced to shut down by the government or a city or whatever it might be,” added Quisberg, who noted that much remains to be seen, especially after such a surge in activity in less than 36 hours. “You know, grocery stores are such an essential part of the community and need to be open as much as we can because as you can see around here, people need to come to get their supplies.”

As for Sandra Eubanks and Bob Loraus, both of Lake Shore, they said the coronavirus is a matter of concern and precautions are sensible but ultimately whatever happens, happens.

“We have a neighbor with one lung, she has one lung removed, so you know she’s on permanent oxygen. I have a friend down in Florida, he’s got pulmonary fibrosis,” Loraus said. “Something like this for a person like that — it would be devastating.”

Eubanks, who said she’s in the more vulnerable age range of 70+, responded to the possibility of an impending pandemic with an air of stoic realism.

“As far as we’re concerned, I’m certainly in that age group, pardon my expression, but s*** happens, you know?” Eubanks said. “You can get sick, but all you can do is what you can do. Wash your hands. Follow the rules. There’s no coronavirus vaccine. It’s all you can do.”

In comparison, John Martell, an Eagan resident up visiting cabin country, expressed concern, but emphasized he was shopping with his vacation in mind, not COVID-19.

“I’m concerned about it,” Martell said. “That’s not why we’re here and we’ll be back on Monday. Have I had any trouble finding anything? Not at all.”


Local businesses

At the Brainerd offices of Ascensus, the company’s roughly 450 local employees are going to see their work-from-home privileges expanded for the foreseeable future — a measure that’s voluntary for workers, Executive Vice President Steve Christenson noted. This will affect 95% of the workforce that’s eligible to work from home. He added the company anticipates about 30-40% of employees will take advantage of this policy in the coming days.

“So we’ve really just kind of opened it up, you know, opened the faucet a little wider, but we have not mandated anything at this point,” Christenson said. “I don't foresee that happening for the Brainerd site, at least in the immediate future.”

Mann Theatres, the proprietors of the Lakes 12 Theatre by Westgate Mall, announced it was taking a number of measures to protect moviegoers who may be concerned with an outbreak of the coronavirus.

“At Mann Theatres the safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority,” CEO Stephen Mann stated in a news release. “We are reaching out today to share with you what we are doing to help keep you safe and comfortable when you see a movie with us, as you may have concerns about COVID-19.”

The company stated it’s stepped up its cleaning at all of its locations, both hourly and overnight cleaning. This means continually wiping down all counters and other surfaces on a continual basis, and nitrile gloves are being worn by all staff during theater cleanings. Hand sanitizer will be found on the counters at all locations for patrons to use.

Northern Cowboy Flame N’ Brew notified the public via a Facebook post it would provide all its specials to-go or in-house, as well as other accommodations to dining customers in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want all of our customers to be safe and feel safe. The to-go option on all our weekly specials will be available til the end of the month. Our regular menu is always available as to-go,” the post stated. “If you want we can also bring your order curbside so you won’t have to leave the comfort of your vehicle.”

Pizza Hut announced in a news release it would reaffirm and redouble its efforts to keep customers safe.


“We’ve increased the frequency of our already strict cleaning procedures at high touch point areas in our restaurants like door handles, front counters, seating areas, and where applicable, buffet and salad bar areas,” the release stated. “We’ve also enhanced hand hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and reemphasized the importance of our brand health standards and protocols.”

Perkins Restaurant & Bakery and Holiday Stationstores released similar statements, notifying the public they would redouble cleaning and sanitizing regimens. Holiday also stated it would provide items like antibacterial gels and wipes, to plastic gloves.

“At Holiday, our mission is to make our customers’ lives a little easier every day. We know you are relying on us more than ever for a clean and friendly experience when you visit our stores,” the news release from CEO Brian Hannasch stated. “We understand that we live in uncertain times.”

“We are all experiencing unusual, fearful and challenging times,” the Perkins release by CEO Michael Abt stated. “I want you to know there is literally nothing more important to us at Perkins than keeping you safe.”

Walgreens announced it would also take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, and also announced it would waive delivery fees for all eligible prescriptions, increase inventory for items commonly used during the pandemic and offer free delivery on any purchase from

“We want you to know, we’re prepared to take care of you and your loved ones on your terms,” the release stated. “We’re working around the clock to monitor the situation, while partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other state and local health officials on response efforts, as well as to provide you with the most up-to-date information.”

Local governments

Crow Wing County cancels meeting

County officials canceled the Tuesday, March 17, committee of the whole meeting. The information-only meeting of county commissioners typically occurs the third Tuesday of each month beginning at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse.


Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office suspends jail visits

County officials announced Friday, March 13, the suspension of jail visitation to protect the public’s health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19.

All programs in the jail are suspended and volunteers are no longer coming in at this time.

Staff are following recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health to help reduce transmission of the virus to protect residents, families and employees.

“This is not a time for panic, but it is time for prudent precautionary steps to limit transmission such as social distancing,” County Administrator Tim Houle stated in a news release.

The sheriff’s office is limiting access to critical areas of their operation; county officials have already implemented increasing disinfecting of public and employee work surfaces; and county staff will implement more social distancing among employees.

County staff will be limiting access to critical areas of operation. Staff are working to determine which functions of county government could be performed remotely.

Wadena open house/public meeting on Highway 10 postponed


The Minnesota Department of Transportation will indefinitely postpone all scheduled public meetings and project open houses statewide, effective immediately.

This includes the open house for Highway 10 in Wadena previously scheduled 4-6 p.m. March 17.

Public engagement on transportation and construction projects remains a priority, according to MnDOT. MnDOT will explore alternatives, such as virtual and remote options for participation, and will provide updates as they become available.

Health care and senior living facilities

CRMC restricts visitors

CROSBY — Cuyuna Regional Medical Center will put new visitor restriction standards starting Monday, March 16, at its facilities to protect patients, residents and staff.

No visitors will be allowed in CRMC’s facilities except for instances of compassionate care and those must be arranged. Obstetrics, outpatient surgery and emergency patients will be allowed one support person.

Children and individuals requiring support may have one person with them. No children are allowed at this time except as a patient. Only approved clergy and vendors will be allowed in the facility.

The only access to CRMC will be the main entrance 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; Entrance B 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekday; and through the emergency department when emergency care is needed.


People at risk of illness are encouraged to have a healthy person pick up prescriptions or call Cuyuna Lakes Pharmacy at 218-545-2345 to have their medications delivered. Pharmacy customers will be allowed in the facility but will be screened.

Several CRMC community events, classes and support groups have been canceled for everyone’s safety. Visit or for updates.

Essentia Health announces free e-visits relating to COVID-19

To support health and wellness in the community, Essentia Health is waiving the fee for e-visits for the purpose of screening and evaluation of respiratory symptoms and concerns related to COVID-19.

To start an Essentia Health e-visit, fill out a short questionnaire. Answers will be reviewed by an Essentia provider, who will make a diagnosis and create a personalized care plan.

Those 18 or older and live in Minnesota, Wisconsin or North Dakota can use this online service. Participants don’t have to be an Essentia patient to have an e-visit. Start an e-visit at .

CHI St. Gabriel’s Hospital restricts visitors

LITTLE FALLS — CHI St. Gabriel’s Hospital is also not allowing visitors to its facilities.

The Little Falls-based health care provider issued a news release that stated: “Patients and families should discuss special arrangements with their care team. Thank you for understanding as we work to ensure a safe environment for our patients and our workforce.”

Tri-County Health restricts visitors

WADENA — Tri-County Health Care reported Friday, March 13, visitors are not allowed effective at noon Friday.

This includes all clinics. Exceptions for special situations are only allowed with prior approval from the care team supporting that patient.

“Thank you for your understanding as we work to ensure a safe environment,” Tri-County Health reported in a news release.

Lakewood Health System restricts visitors

STAPLES — Starting Friday, March 13, no visitors are allowed to enter Lakewood Health System facilities until further notice.

An exception will be made for special circumstances. For those circumstances, visitors should expect a simple screening for symptoms to minimize the risk of exposure of this illness within the facility.

Lakewood Health System in Staples added many people are concerned and wondering about the spread of the coronavirus and how that impacts the medical facility. “Ensuring the health and safety of our communities is our top priority,” Amber Houselog, communications coordinator, noted in a news release Friday. “Therefore, we are following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and taking steps to reduce the potential for the coronavirus to enter our building.”

Specific restrictions include: Hospital/emergency department — no visitors, except for birthing partners and medically necessary hospital patient visits; clinics — no visitors, except medically necessary caregivers and guardians; Care Center, Lakewood Pines, Lakewood Manor, Behavioral Health Unit (Reflections) — no visitors, except for end-of-life visits.

Those with questions or who feel a visit to one of these facilities is necessary, may call the respective numbers; Hospital/emergency department/clinics, 218-894-1515; Care Center, 218-894- 8345; Lakewood Pines, 218-894-4460; Lakewood Manor, 218-894-2124; or Behavioral Health Unit (Reflections) 218-894-8200.

There is a free virtual visit available for those who have coronavirus symptom concerns. Visit the Click Care site at .

Additional coronavirus related information may be found on Lakewood’s website at .

Edgewood Senior Living reduces visiting times

Edgewood Senior Living in Brainerd announced it is implementing visiting time windows — 10 a.m. to noon and 4-6 p.m.

Guests are advised to sign in and out. In the event of two or more COVID-19 cases in any city in which an Edgewood community is located, the company stated it will move toward restricting all visitors.

Diamond Willow Assisted Living restricts visitors

BAXTER — Diamond Willow Assisted Living in Baxter is restricting visitors for the next 30 days to protect its vulnerable elderly residents.

All doors are locked and staff will let in those entering into the homes to assure proper protocol can be completed.

For family members with loved ones in critical imminent health changes or on hospice with critical changes, the organization will allow visiting. Spouses are also allowed. All who enter will be required to fill out a questionnaire on each visit, and temperatures may be requested. All entertainment and non-essential services to the homes are canceled.

The company stated it purchased commercial electrostatic sprayers for additional protection. These reach all areas more effectively than traditional manual cleaning systems with wipes and sprays, according to a news release.

Entertainment and other public events

St. Patrick’s Day parades canceled

Both St. Patrick’s Day parades in Crosslake and Brainerd scheduled for Saturday, March 14, are canceled.

“For those who will be in the area, please remember that the vast majority of our member businesses are still looking forward to welcoming customers,” stated Cindy Myogeto, Crosslake Chamber of Commerce director. “Overall, we strongly encourage everyone to be Lakes Proud and make every effort to support your local businesses and organizations.”

Pageant postponed until April

The 2020 Minnesota United States Pageant has been postponed until April.

The pageant was originally scheduled for Saturday, March 14.

Leech Lake Frostfest canceled

WALKER — The Leech Lake Area Chamber of Commerce announced the cancellation of

the Leech Lake Frostfest.

Those with tickets may donate what they spent to help offset the costs of the event and to benefit local youths in conjunction with Deep Portage Learning Center. Otherwise, ticket holders can credit their purchase toward next year’s event or receive a full refund.

For additional information, email .

CLC Performing Arts Center cancels season

After the directive from Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra to cancel all events and gatherings with more than 100 people until May 1, the Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center announced Friday the cancellation of all events for the remainder of the season.

The events affected are:

  • “Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” March 17-18.

  • “Farewell Angelina,” March 21.

  • “Laurence Juber,” March 26.

  • “Big Friendly Giant,” April 3-4.

  • “The New Standards,” April 17.

  • “I Am…He Said: A Neil Diamond Celebration,” April 24.

  • “The Outgoing Tide,” April 30-May 2, May 7-9.

Those who have already purchased tickets to any of these events have three options:

  • Credit for purchased tickets can be applied to future events (any ticketing fees already paid cannot be credited),

  • Donation of the ticket price to the CLC Performing Arts Center, or

  • Refund (less service fees).

“We humbly ask that you consider option No. 2, as the organization will have a substantial financial loss as a result of these actions,” stated Patrick Spradlin, director of the CLC Performing Arts Center, in a news release. “If you opt for a refund, please understand that processing refunds may take some time, depending on the method of payment you initially used and when the purchase was made. And, we are able to refund only to the original purchaser of the ticket(s).”
Box office staff will contact ticket holders for each event via phone or email to discuss the options. They will work with each event on a chronological basis, beginning with “Neither Wolf Nor Dog.”

Spradlin urged ticket holders to be patient. More than 1,600 people need to be contacted.

At this time, the events are canceled, not postponed. If any events can be rescheduled, the public will be notified, though there is not a timetable for possible rescheduling.

LAMF postpones Nisswa concert

The Lakes Area Music Festival Friday, March 13, announced it will postpone the “Harmonious Harp” concert set May 17 in Nisswa.

Rosenmeier Forum on the census is postponed

The Rosenmeier Forum on the 2020 Census scheduled March 17 was postponed because of the extension of Central Lakes College’s spring break through next week.

Steve Wenzel, executive director of the Gordon Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government, offered his apologies. He said the group will reschedule the event at a later date.

Grassroots Concerts postpones upcoming concert

NISSWA — Grassroots Concerts canceled its Claudia Schmidt’s March 20 concert and will reschedule the concert to a later date.

All concerts are in Nisswa at the Live Well Nightclub and Coffee Bar at the Journey Church. The organization will make an announcement in the next week or two regarding the remaining spring concerts scheduled April 10 and May 1.

Everything Expo postponed, other chamber events under consideration

The Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce postponed the Everything Expo previously scheduled for March 20-21.

The chamber said it is also in the process of contacting area legislators regarding the Eggs and Issues event on March 20.

“If it’s not advisable to meet in person, we will consider postponing to a later date and/or broadcasting the discussion in an interactive, online format,” according to the chamber.

Decisions on whether to proceed with or postpone Business After Hours events will be made several days in advance. The next one is scheduled for March 24 at Elite Industries in Pequot Lakes. Decisions on whether to proceed with or postpone Blue Ox Business Academy trainings will also be made several days in advance. This includes the Leadership Experience, XCORE Leadership, Supervisor Advantage and Success Series workshops.

At this point, the chamber stated it plans to keep its normal business hours with staff on site at its four locations. The release stated chamber leaders will “convene a meeting of area leaders next week to share information across sectors and coordinate coronavirus resources.”

Stage North postpones upcoming production

Stage North Theatre Co. of Brainerd announced it is postponing its upcoming production “Anything Goes,” originally scheduled March 26-28 and April 2-4 at the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd.

Concert postponed

LITTLE FALLS — Hand of Hope Resource Center third benefit concert Hope Rocks, which was scheduled March 27 at the Falls Ballroom Banquet and Catering Services in Little Falls, was postponed and rescheduled.

All tickets purchased will be valid at the rescheduled concert. The date and time has not yet been set for the benefit concert, “I Am, He Said,” a celebration of Neil Diamond music starring Matt Vee and the Killer Vees. The proceeds from the rescheduled concert will be used to help fund Emergency Assistance and the Violence Prevention Program.

Those with questions may contact Steve Meyer at or call 320-632-1657, ext. 201.

Hands of Hope Resource Center exists to help victims of domestic, sexual and general violence seek help.

Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace event canceled

LITTLE FALLS — Sprout MN canceled the Growers & Makers Marketplace on Saturday, March 28.

Just For Kix postpones TWD competitions in March

Just For Kix made a decision to postpone all Together We Dance competitions in March.

The dance company is working to reschedule them in late April or May.

At this time, JFK plans to host its April events, but some of them could possibly get shifted.

Some classes are postponed and may go into May or June.

Other organizations

Food packing events postponed

NISSWA — The Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes, a Nisswa-based humanitarian food aid organization, announced its food packing events scheduled March 14-April 30 are postponed.

“We have a small inventory of packaged food on hand, and we will continue to supply this to local area food shelves as requested,” the organization stated on its Facebook page. “The need for food aid will be monitored and we will package upon demand if necessary. When/if we do that (during the March 14-April 30) time frame, we will seek volunteers that are healthy and able to package meals.”

AARP tax assistance events suspended

The AARP announced all of its tax preparation assistance events currently scheduled are canceled until further notice.

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