Sheriff’s Corner: County officials are preparing and responding to the coronavirus pandemic

Stay healthy, stay safe and call the sheriff's office if any assistance is needed

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch

This month I would like to give readers an update about what the sheriff’s office is doing to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting all of us in some way.

The Cass County Emergency Management Office, along with Cass County Public Health, has been doing an excellent job on managing the pandemic on a local level. They have been communicating and participating with local, regional, state and federal partners and are involved in daily communications and updates. It is for issues and events like these that we have these groups and professionals working within County government.

Early on in this pandemic (early March 2020), Cass County enabled its Emergency Operations Plan that outlines and details Cass County’s response to a pandemic or emergency response. Emergencies and disasters have affected Cass County in the past and will again in the future. These Emergencies are defined as unplanned events which require an immediate response to preserve life, health, property or the environment. Most of these public safety events are dealt with on a daily basis by professional or volunteer emergency services including law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical and public works personnel. Some, however, require an emergency declaration to provide an urgent and coordinated response from multiple agencies working under a common framework. The purpose of this plan is to ensure the effective, coordinated use of local resources, including facilities, equipment, personnel and skills of government and non-government organizations to:

1. Maximize the protection of life, health, property and the environment.

2. Ensure the continuity of county, city and township government services.


3. Provide support to all political subdivisions in Cass County which require assistance.

At the same time, the Cass County Board of Commissioners also enacted its Continuity of Operations Plan detailing how Cass County will continue essential and critical operations during this emergency situation. These plans went into effect and employees immediately began operating under the guidelines laid out by these plans. Having these plans in place helped with a seamless transition to operations during this pandemic.

Operationally, the sheriff’s office is operating as normal and responding to emergencies and calls for service, as needed. You may see some changes in the way we respond or communicate with you in the event of a non-emergency situation. Our staff is encouraged to limit contact with members of the public when they can do so. Some types of low priority non-emergency calls or communication will be done electronically via phone or email. This will help keep our staff, as well as the public, safe and healthy.

Our 911 Dispatch Communications Center began and will continue to screen and initiate a series of questions to callers, especially in medical situations, about symptoms, history, travel history and contact with other individuals. This is a statewide protocol that we are following based on recommendations from the State Emergency Communications Network. Gathering and relaying this information will help first responders, fire departments, EMS and other emergency providers in their response and safety measures.

When in person contact occurs in our staff’s responses, we may be using personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, goggles or gowns. This will be on a case by case basis and will change over the course of our response to this pandemic. Again, these measures are to keep you and the public safe, as well as our staff.

We have been asked to provide clarifications on essential workers and essential travel. While we attempt to interpret these orders like you, we refer you to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development website at for specific questions or clarification.

In closing, we are happy with the social distancing and less travel that we are seeing in our area. We are following the orders from the governor and have helped to “flatten the curve” and allow time for the state to prepare for critical needs. Over this time period, our sheriff’s office has been contacted and supplied with many supplies, lunches, goodies and other items. It is in times like these when we realize how close our partnerships and relationships are with our communities and it is greatly appreciated. Together we will get through this pandemic and come out stronger than we were before. Stay healthy and safe and if any assistance is needed from the sheriff’s office, please let us know.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: by email at ’ by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

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