Mayor Carter declares local state of emergency for St. Paul amid COVID-19 outbreak

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter declared a state of local emergency on Sunday as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

The local emergency declaration allows St. Paul Emergency Management to request and allocate aid from several sources, such as the Ramsey County Division of Emergency Management, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the state of Minnesota. The declaration also orders the closure of several public facilities, among other measures.

“We must take bold and immediate action to address the local impacts of this pandemic,” Carter said. “These extraordinary steps are critical to protecting our public health and safety, and are not taken lightly.”

From March 16-27, all St. Paul Public Libraries and Parks and Recreation facilities will be closed to the public. That includes the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. The city will also stop issuing permits for public gatherings of 50 or more people.

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Any St. Paul firefighters or police officers exposed to the virus or who contract COVID-19 while on duty will be provided worker’s compensation coverage.

"I am grateful for Mayor Carter’s leadership during this challenging and historic moment in our history," St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said in a statement. "I am even more grateful and proud of our officers and first responders who simply don’t have the option of staying home during moments of crisis."

St. Paul Fire Chief Butch Inks also commended the measure.

”The health and wellness of our firefighters is a top priority for us, especially in challenging situations we face today," Inks said in a statement. "Mayor Carter and his entire administration have made the well being of our firefighters a top priority from day one. This decision and commitment to the first responders is another example of his dedication to public safety.”

Carter also requested the Ramsey County Sheriff suspend all evictions in St. Paul. The city had announced on Thursday that all water shutoffs would be suspended for 30 days.

"The impacts of COVID-19 stand to cause sudden and sharp drops in income for many tenants in our community," Carter said in a letter to the sheriff’s office. "Low-income workers are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck, less likely to have savings, and experience greater challenges weathering any disruption to their income. This puts them at risk of not being able to pay rent, and thus make them disproportionately subject to eviction."

As of Sunday, the Minnesota Department of Health has reported eight cases of COVID-19 in Ramsey County.