The Ramsey County Sheriff has raised alarm over the prospect of a COVID-19 outbreak at some of St. Paul's high-density buildings.
As the coronavirus continues to spread in Minnesota, Sheriff Bob Fletcher has expressed concerns about multi-family buildings including Skyline Tower and Mt. Airy in St. Paul, both high-density apartment complexes offering accommodation to low-income residents.
His comments came as the sheriff's office asked for donations of homemade face masks to hand out to residents of high-rises and other multi-family dwellings in the county, where the "potential for community spread of Coronavirus ... is extremely high."
"Narrow hallways, small elevators, and shared spaces – including mailrooms, laundry facilities, community rooms, and worship areas – all make social distancing in these confined living spaces very difficult if not impossible," Fletcher said.
"These large buildings are home to our most vulnerable citizens, including elderly, disabled, and immigrant communities with limited English proficiency. Many residents do not have access to the internet and rely on person-to-person verbal exchanges for information.
"Should the virus penetrate a high-density multi-family building, it will quickly become a super accelerator."
Skyline Tower is the largest federally subsidized building in Minnesota, with the 240-foot-tall building comprising more than 500 living units that are home to approximately 2,000 residents.
Fletcher expressed his concerns in a letter to St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, with FOX 9 reporting that Fletcher is worried that without help, the Skyline Towers "will become a cruise ship on steroids.”
The mayor wrote back that he shares Fletcher's concerns, and asked if the sheriff's COVID-19 Help Team could assist with personal wellness checks and distributing information to residents of high-density buildings.
Donating face masks
The Help Team, made up of first responders with "appropriate safety equipment," is offering to pick up donations of homemade masks outside homes or businesses.
Pickups can be scheduled Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Email HelpTeam@co.ramsey.mn.us, or call/text 651-448-3874 to schedule a pickup.