Minneapolis Police, Fire, and Public Works Departments Adjust to Covid-19 Emergency

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Some highlights from the Covid-19 update given to the Minneapolis City Council’s Public Safety & Emergency Management Committee on Wednesday.

Ward 7 Council Member Lisa Goodman asked about crime trends with “people voluntarily sheltering in place.” She noted a series of “unusual” crimes in her ward, including a biker who was chased down and robbed by someone driving a car on the Cedar Lake bike trail. She speculated that “desperation” may have led to an increase.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the recent statewide action to close bars, restaurants, and schools presents new challenges. With many businesses closed, police are on alert for a any emerging “trend in burglaries.” Kids being out of school is “a different dynamic to watch.”

Ward 8 Council Member Andrea Jenkins is concerned for the health of people held for low level crimes in Hennepin County’s jail. “They are in close proximity to each other without any opportunities for social distancing or self-isolation… and so the more we can keep people out of those situations, I think is going to serve our broader community very well.”

“The public does not need to buy bottled water. Your drinking water is safe.”

“There is no risk to the city’s drinking water. Our current practices of filtration and disinfection provide an effective barrier against Covid-19,” said Public Works director Robin Hutcheson. Even in the event a large number of employees are unable to come to work, clean water will continue to flow. Employees are cross-trained to cover for their absent colleagues.

Lisa Goodman held up a large cup: “I’m drinking the water right now.”

With streets empty, Hennepin Ave reconstruction could be fast tracked, according to Hutcheson. “On Hennepin Avenue our contractors want to speed up. They want to do some additional work right now, while the volumes are low and people are not traveling.”

The Covid-19 emergency is having a different effect on a street reconstruction just outside Hennepin County Medical Center. On 8th Street, Hutcheson said “We will hold on that construction project until we understand the needs of HCMC, before we make any changes to that street.”

Minneapolis Fire Department is no longer entering nursing homes if they can avoid it. Chief John Fruetel said they’re asking nursing facilities to bring patients to the front door if possible so that residents aren’t exposed to firefighters, and firefighters aren’t exposed to residents.

Fire Department prepares to operate with fewer firefighters if necessary. Fruetel said, “We normally operate in an area of 102 to maybe 106 firefighters working per day. We have a staffing guide that’s been completed that takes it down to a much lower number.” If a significant number of firefighters become ill or need to be isolated, the department is prepared to “move some rigs around, change some staffing” to keep fire stations open.

Freutel said Minneapolis is also prepared to meet “mutual aid” obligations to assist other communities who might experience staffing shortages. “When you look at some of the outlying communities, they only have maybe six firefighters working a day.”