Everyday we get a couple of phone calls and emails asking if we are going to be open this summer. Our answer is we are doing everything we can to make that happen. Some have gone on to ask us how can we do that. Most of the questions are because Minnesota, like most states, currently has a stay at home order. If you haven’t heard of this, it is an official edict from the governor of Minnesota ordering all people to stay home rather than go out in public. The current directive expires at midnight tonight. Of course, a new executive order has already been issued and will go into effect at 12:01 am and isn’t set to expire until May 18th. So the question everyone is asking is “how can you be a resort and open to business when there is an executive order forcing people to stay home?” This is a fair question and I’d like to answer here in depth here. Also, for those wishing to read the 40 page official executive order from Governor Tim Walz here is the link-https://mn.gov/covid19/assets/EO%2020-48%20Final_tcm1148-430504.pdf.
If you didn’t take time to read the whole thing, no worries, I did. And I’m here to break it down as to how it pertains to Birch Forest Lodge, any other small Minnesota fishing resort and most importantly to your vacation plans.
First they make sure we all know this is an official edict. We get both the official seal and the governors office (in bold) at the beginning. You will also note that this is both an extension of the current stay at home order while also being a modification. In the next few paragraphs we are told what we already know namely that the current Covid 19 pandemic is bad and “unprecedented” and that these measures are to keep everyone safe. On page 3 the official decree is given…
“Beginning on Sunday, May 3, 2020 at 11:59 pm through Sunday, May 17, 2020 at
11:59 pm, all persons currently living within the State of Minnesota are ordered to
stay at home or in their place of residence except to engage in the Activities set forth
below in paragraph 5 and to work in Critical Sectors and Non-Critical Exempt
Businesses as forth below in paragraphs 6 and 8.”
So there you go. You have to stay home or in your place of residence. Except that there are some exceptions. Before we jump to the exemptions lets first go to the definitions they give us three paragraphs later.
“4. Definitions. For purposes of this Executive Order, homes or residences include
mobile homes, hotels, motels, shared rental units, shelters, and similar facilities, to the
extent they are used for lodging. As used in this Executive Order, “workers” and
“personnel” are broadly defined to include owners, proprietors, employees,
contractors, vendors, volunteers, and interns.“
In the official executive order place of residence is defined as any property that is used for lodging including hotels, motels and similar facilities as long as they are used for lodging. Also anyone who works in a lodging establishment is also given clearance to work at said lodging establishment. So before we get further into the executive order we learn that the stay at home order allows people to stay in places of lodging that aren’t actually their primary place of residence. This isn’t actually new. This is the same definition given in the last executive order. This is why hotels and such have been able to operate. But what about the people traveling there? If they have to stay home, how do they legally travel to a lodging establishment? We’ll get to that…
The very next paragraph (still on page 3) we learn that there are activities that are exempted from the executive order to stay home… “Exemptions – Activities. Minnesotans may leave their homes or residences to engage in the following activities, provided that all persons follow the MDH and CDC Guidelines, including but not limited to social distancing, to the maximum extent possible.” In short Minnesotans can leave their homes if they are doing certain activities. What activities? Glad you asked. Scroll down and in the middle of page 4 is a long section about outdoor recreational activities. And this is found there “Individuals may engage in any outdoor activity that is dependent upon or derives its principal benefit from natural surroundings and open space, including but not limited to hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, hiking, biking, golfing, and picnicking for the purposes of pleasure, rest, exercise, or relaxation, provided that the activity can be engaged in accordance with the Outdoor Recreation Guidelines, including maintaining at least six feet of separation between participants from different households.”
Outdoor activities that are dependent upon or derives its principal benefit from natural surroundings and open space, including but not limited to fishing, boating, hiking and picnicking for the purpose of pleasure, rest, exercise or relaxation are exempt from the stay at home order. This is Birch Forest Lodge. We are a business that is set in a natural surrounding and service those who are engaged in activities such as boating, hiking, fishing and so forth for the sake of pleasure. The executive order goes on to say that sports activities, concerts, rallies and more are not exempt. Only activities that are based in nature and allow for social distancing are allowed.
Okay, what about traveling around? Will I get in trouble for driving somewhere? We get these questions too. Here is what the executive order says about that. “Essential intrastate and interstate travel. Minnesotans are encouraged to stay close to home and are strongly discouraged from engaging in unnecessary travel. Individuals may travel to exempted activities and may travel to return to a home or place of residence. Individuals may also travel into and out of Minnesota.” So we see here that while unnecessary travel is discouraged, we are allowed to travel to exempted activities (like outdoor recreational activities such as fishing or boating). The executive order officially states it is not against the law to travel in Minnesota or into Minnesota. In short, you can’t get in trouble traveling to an outdoor recreational activity. You are legally protected.
We can’t answer the questions about whether you should or shouldn’t travel. But we are legally allowed to be open for business. In fact, one could argue that we are providing a safe place for people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors safely. Our cabins are well spaced out. The lake is large. Social distancing is very doable here. You can follow the law, respect those who are worried about spreading the virus and still spend time with your family. Come to Birch Forest Lodge and enjoy outdoor recreational activities. We are open.
Of course many people are asking us what extra precautions we will be taking this summer to help prevent the spread of Covid 10. Without getting into things and arguing the “benefits of herd immunity” or “lowering the curve” or vaccinations or anything else we can say what we are doing to make sure you won’t get sick here. We have ordered infrared thermometers so we can take the temperature of those who clean for us. We always clean the cabins very thoroughly and disinfect everything. We will make sure to continue this practice and disinfect every doorknob, counter top, cabinet and so forth. One change that the state health department is asking us to make is to have guests bring their own bedding. This is likely a change that we will have to make for the 2020 season. We will contact guests prior to arrival and let them know if they need to bring bedding. We are sorry if any of this bothers you. We are simply trying to do everything we can to make things safe for you(and us). We are also trying to make sure we don’t lose our business or home due to financial failure.
For those of you who are unable to make it this summer due to loss of jobs or health issues/worries we will miss you. But we also understand. This is a trying time for all of us. If you have to cancel (and many have done so already) please give us as much time as possible so might be able to fill your spot. Please remember that this is our livelihood and when we get a last minute cancellation it greatly affects us. Especially this year. For those of you who are still planning on coming this summer-thank you. We sincerely appreciate your support and business. We hope to see many of you this summer.