Minnesota businesses adapting to 'no contact' during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Outside the Washburn Public Library in Minneapolis, an unusual sight: signs telling patrons that curbside pickup is available.

Even more unusual, a masked librarian bringing requested materials, wrapped in plastic, to the front door. 

"It's so weird," exclaims 14-year-old Izzy Thomson, who came here with her mother Heather, to make a pickup.

"We're just so used to being able to walk to the library and just go in and get my books, but now they're sitting outside." 

No contact, here and in many other libraries in the wider metro area. 

Instead, patrons like the Thomson's reserve materials, and call in when they're ready to pick up. 

"At least we can get books," says Heather Thomson. "They're trusting us to keep them a bit longer than usual. We'll return them when things are back to normal."

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Area libraries, closed for a month now because of the pandemic, are now loaning out books, but no returns for the time being.  

"The books being used for curbside pickup are books that have been on the shelf for at least four weeks," says Hennepin County Library spokesperson Josh Yetman. "We are not currently accepting any returns."

That's because those books may have been sitting in your house for weeks– and no one knows if those materials are contaminated. 

But libraries aren't the only facilities trying to adapt to this new normal. 

"It's strange," says Michael Kranz, of Minneapolis. "I don't really want to get used to it. I'm ready to go back and be interactive with folks."

Kranz was one of ten customers, waiting in their cars outside a Best Buy in Roseville.

The appliance and electronics chain now allows customers to pre-order, wait outside in their cars, and a masked and gloved employee brings out their merchandise. 

Kranz says he's happy about the precautions. 

"My wife is expecting, so she's in that at-risk population, so we're particularly nervous about how this could impact her," he explains. 

Social distancing is even impacting funeral homes. 

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At the Brenny Funeral Chapel in Baxter, the owners are converting a newly built garage addition into a drive-through. 

"We have it fenced off, so there's a barrier between the family and the cars driving through," owner Carolyn Brenny says. 

State health laws permit 10 people to attend a funeral. 

This new idea requires people to stay in their cars, allowing extended family and friends to extend their condolences while staying safe. 

Brenny says she knows this is an especially difficult time for those who've lost loved ones. 

"We're doing this drive-through, so people can deal with their grief," she says. "Seeing is what you believe in your heart, this is what we're saying. If you see it, your heart can also heal."

Meanwhile, library officials say they too, want to make sure that proper precautions are in place while allowing some services. 

"When the time comes, we're going to have to find a way to take books back that have been sitting in peoples' homes for the last several weeks," Yetman says. 

But at least for now, area public libraries– a basic service that many have taken for granted– at least have some access. 

"We're doing it to be safe and our family is following all the rules to keep our community safe," Heather says.