Like many people these days, the Isanti City Council has been weighing the pros and cons of holding or canceling city-sponsored events.
After a lengthy discussion at its May 5 meeting regarding several different events, the Isanti City Council postponed making any decisions regarding their cancellation until its May 19 meeting.
The events that were discussed specifically were the June street dance, the Mayor’s luncheon in June, and the events surrounding Jubilee Days.
Mayor Jeff Johnson started the discussion by asking if the planned fireworks display following the parade should be canceled if the parade itself was canceled. (Subsequent to the meeting, all Jubilee Days events have been canceled, see page 1 for the full story)
It was decided that the fireworks would not be canceled, since social distancing can easily be done with people watching the fireworks from their home or cars.
“I personally don’t think should cancel anything until the minute,” said Council Member Steve Lundeen. “We’ve got to give people hope. We’ve got to give them something to look forward to. If they’re shut-in and locked in, it has to get addressed, sooner than later, I hope this thing will start going away sooner than later.”
Wood noted that many other cities are canceling their summer festivities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would just like to share things that we have heard from other cities, because, as councilman Collison just stated, it is up to the organizer to maintain social distancing if that is still in place,” she said, noting St. Francis, North Branch, Princeton, East Bethel, and Coon Rapids have canceled events taking place in June and July. “The liability falls upon the organizer to have (social distancing) be maintained.”
Her concern at this time was whether or not to cancel any of the street dances planned for June and July, as well as what the plan would be to maintain social distancing at such an event. She noted snow fencing could be put up and the city could track the number of people allowed in. However, food vendors have been asking how many people are planned to attend these events so they can plan the amount of food needed.
Johnson stated everything could change May 18 if Governor Tim Walz does not extend his Stay-At-Home order. “So, May 18 comes out and he says, ‘Hey, we’re free and clear, we’re slowly going to bring the economy back,’ and now we’re postponing things to July. So, now we’re sitting here in June twiddling our thumbs. How do you undo that? You can’t,” Johnson said.
Collison argued that it would be difficult to keep people socially distanced at a street dance, to which Johnson stated people would be coming at their own risk. Collison asked if the city would ask everybody to sign a waiver before entering the street dance.
“If that’s what it takes, then so be it,” Johnson said.
Council Member Paul Bergley stated he thought people needed hope and that they were sick of the whole thing. Collison agreed that people were sick of everything, but added that the city has to be responsible about it.
“I think we’ve all showed up to these council meetings because we didn’t want to instill fear in any of our residents. So we’ve all showed up, we’re all here, we’re all six feet apart,” Johnson said. “Because we didn’t want to instill fear, we wanted to give hope, we wanted to give them a light at the end of that tunnel, so us starting to cancel things, all we’re doing . . . whoever wanted to cripple our economy and instill fear, is winning. And they’re winning in the fact of the matter that we’re letting them. We’re Americans darnit. Stand up, stand tall, fight back. Yeah, you can use your common sense and your social distancing and be respectful.”
Bergley agreed with Johnson, stating that “it’s time to get back to work, period – end of sentence. And, if we start canceling things along the way, I think people are going to say, ‘Well, they’re buying in, too.’ Well, I’m not buying in – whatever you guys want to do, I say keep going forward.”
Lundeen noted he talked to residents about how they felt, and none of them want to see summer community events be cancelled. He added that he agrees with Collison, but that he thinks there’s a lot of skewed numbers and misleading information from the news media and the CDC.
“As a matter of fact, just before I came here tonight, the CDC had two different numbers, 30,000 cases off from two different websites from the CDC. The CDC’s website,” Lundeen said. “Not a fake one, but two different numbers. Want to know what the media said? It was two weeks apart. If the CDC is updating this thing hourly, why are they having something that’s two weeks apart? It’s because they are showing so many different models of what’s going on, they don’t which model they’re telling you today.”
Council Member Jim Gordon stated he agreed with what was being said, adding, “Dan, I think I respect what you’re saying, but people can come at their own risk. I mean, if they’ve got a sickness or prior health issue, this may not be the thing for them to do right now. And, we could maybe have the city attorney draft up a waiver if we feel like that’s necessary. But, I think we want to keep going and keep moving, keep pushing forward with setting these things up and getting ready to go.”
“What we need to remember is that you can be carrying it and you don’t need to have symptoms to transfer it,” Collison stated. “You can’t forget that. If you’re not feeling well, you’re not going to come. You could be feeling totally fine and still carry it.”