The City of New Ulm declared a peacetime state of emergency Tuesday because of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. The city is doing this to gain latitude in securing potential funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Minnesota Homeland Security Emergency Management Public Assistance. City Manager Chris Dalton said internally, city employees who have traveled out of state have been sent home for 14 days. The city is following the Center for Disease Control guidelines, which include sending employees with symptoms home. Non-essential meetings and travel for city staff have also been canceled. He was requesting the council approve potentially closing city hall. He was uncertain the length of the shutdown would prevent staff from contracting the virus. Councilor Lisa Fischer said closing down was doing the city’s part to help contain the virus. If employees can work from home she felt that was the best way. “We’re going to get criticized either way,” she said. “If we look back and say it was overkill, OK, it was, but if we look back and say we should have [closed], it is hard to go back.” Fischer said it is hard to predict how this will go. Fischer said the only way to slow this virus down was to limit social interaction. She said if a week after shutting city hall down the virus slows, city hall can re-open. Fischer made a motion to declare the state of emergency until the first regular city council meeting in April or through a special meeting. At this time, city staff who can work from home will be allowed to work from home. City hall and public utilities will be closed to the public starting Thursday.

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