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COVID-19: City of Rochester limiting in-person services, closing recreation facilities

It comes as Olmsted County and the state is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The City of Rochester is the latest to reduce in-person services and close recreation facilities due to surging COVID-19 cases in the community and throughout Minnesota. 

“The majority of city services remain fully functional thanks to the various online and digital tools that we have available. By taking the step of reducing in-person interactions, we are being proactive and doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” City Administrator Steve Rymer said in a statement Friday. “We ask everyone continue to wear masks and practice social distancing as we get through this together.”

The city will offer limited in-person services at City Hall and other city-run offices, with appointments required for many meetings. City officials are urging residents to use phone-based or virtual resources instead of in-person meetings. 

Activities at recreation facilities the city operates, including Graham Arena, the Rochester Recreation Center and the National Volleyball Center were paused on Sunday and will remain paused through Monday, Nov. 30. 

The status of activities at the city's recreation facilities will be re-evaluated in a week, the Nov. 13 announcement said.

These changes are in line with the city's COVID-19 Recovery Preparedness Plan, Rymer said. 

“This is a difficult time for the community,” Ken Jones, Director of Emergency Management for City of Rochester said in a statement. “Now is the time to remain extra cautious to slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone can do their part by limiting close contact to 15 minutes or less, avoid sharing breathing air with non-household members, wearing a mask for another layer of protection, and doing regular handwashing.”

On Friday, Olmsted County reported a seven-day rolling average of 123 new cases per day, which puts the city's risk dial at "severe," with city officials encouraging people to take stringent precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Days after Rochester's announcement, Olmsted County on Sunday reported 497 new COVID-19 cases, more than doubling the previous single-day record for new cases in the county, which was set on Saturday, KROC reports

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Rochester isn't the only city shutting down in-person services as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike across the state. 

On Monday, the City of Brainerd said it would close to the public "until further notice."

Earlier this month, the City of Duluth said it would limit access to city buildings in hopes of protecting city employees and the public. St. Louis County, which is home to Duluth, has also seen surging case numbers. On Nov. 12, its seven-day case average was 129.6 new cases per day.

Statewide, on Sunday, MDH reported 7,559 new cases, pushing the state's active case count total to more than 50,000. There were also 31 more deaths.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations are also surging. Through Nov. 12, the number of people with COVID-19 hospitalized in Minnesota is 1,424, which marks an all-time high. To put that into perspective, there were 580 people hospitalized with COVID-19 just over three weeks ago (Oct. 24).

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