Concerns raised as some head to cabins to weather COVID-19 outbreak

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As more and more cases of COVID-19 pop up in and around the Twin Cities, many people are choosing to head to their cabins to ride out the crisis.

But that's starting to create concerns in rural parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Already in Wisconsin, Vilas and Oneida county officials are telling cabin owners to stay home, worried an influx of people could overwhelm the rural healthcare systems and negatively impact the older population.

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"What we’re telling everyone right now from a vacation perspective, postpone your vacation but don’t cancel it," Matt Killian, president of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce said. "That’s very important, we still want you in our community. In communities like ours we need tourism, and we want to provide those awesome experiences for people."

Kilian says those who do plan to head north should pack food with them as grocers are doing all they can to keep up with local demand.

"Bring as many of your own groceries as possible if you’re going to be up here for a couple of weeks," he said. "Clean out your pantry and just don’t expect that when you get up to Brainerd you can stop at the grocery store and buy two weeks of supplies."

Some business owners are concerned too.

"I thought about how people might be inclined to run to the cabin if they get sick or run to the cabin to avoid the coronavirus, and I thought, I’m a little bit afraid of that," Ellen Schwalbe said. "That could so easily overwhelm our hospital systems and our clinics."

Both appreciate the tourism, saying it is so important to shop local right now. 

"We need to rally together to support the businesses that support our community, and that’s never been more important than it is right now," Kilian said. 

Schwalbe says it comes down to personal responsibility.

"If everybody just makes mindful choices about where they’re going to stay and choices that are responsible, I think we’re all going to come out on top of this thing," she said.