The Times reached out to CPD Chief Paul Biermaier Friday morning for information and the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Polk County Emergency Management, and Emergency Operations Center were brought in for a joint statement.

On March 25th, 2020, Governor Walz issued Executive Order (EO) 20-20 directing Minnesotans to stay at home except for specific circumstances. Law enforcement agencies across the State are fielding many questions regarding the order. It is our hope this letter will assist you in understanding some of the details. All State of MN public information regarding COVID-19, including executive orders, can be found at www.mn.gov.

One of the most important points for all our citizens to understand is that this order is NOT a lockdown, it is NOT Martial Law, and there hasn’t been any communication about either of those topics at all. The rumors of such are false; simply not true.

Law enforcement in Polk County, including the East Grand Forks and Crookston Police Departments and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, will not randomly stop vehicles to determine if people are in compliance with this order. Our agencies are conducting most of our business as usual which includes traffic stops for all the same reasons we have done in the past; and for criminal investigations or other crimes. Law enforcement will first work to educate the public regarding anyone who isn’t in compliance with the order. There is a possibility a citation will be issued after the second and subsequent violations and there is the possibility of being arrested if the education and citation routes do not seem to be working. Decisions on each situation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

“Stay at home” means you should stay at your home and leave only for essential reasons. Listed below are the seven justification categories, provided by the Department of Public Safety; why someone may leave their home as stipulated in the order. These reasons are fairly broad so each of us needs to use some common sense. Daily trips to the grocery store should not take place, a weekly trip would be better.

“Shelter in place” typically happens after some sort of disaster like a tornado. People might be told not to come out of your home or business because it’s not safe at the moment. This order is not a shelter-in-place order.

The EO includes seven justifications why someone may leave their home:

Relocation to ensure safety. Individuals whose homes or residences are unsafe or become unsafe, including individuals who have suffered or are at risk of domestic violence or for whom the safety, sanitation, or essential operations of the home or residence cannot be maintained, are allowed and urged to leave their home or residence and relocate to a safe alternative home or residence. Victim advocates are included in those exempted as Critical Sector staff by this order.

Health and safety activities. Individuals may seek emergency services, obtain medical services, supplies, and medications, and visit a health care or dental professional or facility, or a veterinarian. Individuals may also donate blood.

Outdoor activities. Individuals may also engage in outdoor activities (e.g., walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing), and may go to available public parks, excluding outdoor play equipment, consistent with remaining at least six-feet apart from individuals not within the individual’s household.

Necessary supplies and services. Individuals may obtain food, including delivery or carry-out services, beverages, and other grocery items, gasoline, supplies needed to work from home, and products needed to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of homes and residences or businesses. Individuals may also visit and use the services of laundromats and dry cleaners.

Essential and interstate travel. Individuals may travel to return to a home or place of residence from outside this state and may travel into and out of this state.

Care of others. Individuals may care for a family member, friend, or pet in another household, and may transport family members, friends, or pets as allowed by this Executive Order, including the transport of children pursuant to shared custody orders. This also includes child care providers, educators, and others who continue to care for emergency workers.

Displacement. Individuals without a home are exempt from the restrictions in this executive order, and they may move between emergency shelters, drop-in centers, and encampments. Encampments should not be subject to sweeps by state or local governments; as such sweeps increase the potential risk and spread of COVID-19.

Legitimate and/or essential reasons not listed or generally covered in the above paragraphs will also be allowed, again on a case-by-case basis. Travel to and from North Dakota is also not restricted so long as your reason(s) for that travel is/are justified or essential.

Lastly, on behalf of our agencies, all our officers and support staff, and the greater First Responder community, we want to thank you for your understanding and patience as we all work through this together. Please continue to follow the recommendations and guidelines provided by the MN Department of Health, MN Department of Public Safety and all the other sources of true and accurate information. All of us need to do everything we can for the sake of our own health, the health of our families and friends and for the health of all the first responders and people working behind the scenes that are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.