Our lives continue to be greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The emergency proclamation issued by Governor Reynolds has closed our schools, colleges, and scores of businesses. Social distancing has become a part of our everyday language and routine. At the time of this writing, “shelter in place” has been ordered by 43 of 50 states. Although Iowa has not yet been included in that list, the restrictions issued by the Governor’s office are very similar to those states that have already issued the order. Periodically, as the situation evolves, more restrictions are issued from the Governor’s office.
On Monday April 2nd, after both City Hall and I received several phone calls and e-mails from concerned citizens and local health care professionals in relation to the lack of social distancing on our local playgrounds, campgrounds, and golf course, I met with the Emmetsburg City Council in a special meeting. At my urging it was decided that, effective the next morning, we would be closing city owned campgrounds, playgrounds, and the golf course. (The Shores on Five Island had been closed due to an earlier order from the Governor). The decision to close these additional facilities was not taken lightly or in haste, but rather out of a genuine concern for the health of our citizens. Following the closure of our facilities on Tuesday morning, the members of our Little League Board made the decision to temporarily close their facilities. I applaud their wise decision.
On Monday, April 6th, the Governor’s office extended their mandatory closure of businesses to include, among other things, playgrounds and campgrounds. It looks to me like we were ahead of the curve when we chose to close the playgrounds and campgrounds in Emmetsburg.
There has been noise and debate on social media about our decision to close the golf course. As the weather improves, there will undoubtedly be more. Some golf courses in the state remain open and that’s their choice. I’ve read articles about a couple of courses in border towns struggling to keep out of state golfers off their course. We actually had a call from an individual who is from a fairly local Coronavirus “hot spot” that heard our course was open and wanted to bring a group of people down to golf. Please raise your hand if you’re in favor of allowing that.
I saw one posting on social media that headlined “Golf Course Open!” It included a list of rules that were to be followed. Let’s take a look at those rules:
- Only local golfers will be allowed on the course.
- We’re a public facility. I suspect we’d have serious legal issues should we start picking and choosing who we allow in. Besides, who would enforce that? Which city employee should I, as Mayor appoint for that task? Which one would I choose to unnecessarily expose to this virus? Ask yourself who you would choose. My answer is no one. I will not, under any circumstances ask one of our employees to put themselves in harm’s way for the recreation of others.
- Only one person per golf cart.
- We tried that here when our course initially opened. It didn’t work.
- Only non-members must come into sign in and pay green fees.
- Come into where? Our Governor ordered The Shores closed during the initial round of closures several weeks ago. If we were open, who would be tasked to collect the green fees? Again, ask yourself who you would choose. I would choose no one.
- Practice social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines.
- Refer to the 2nd rule (above). We tried that. It didn’t work.
- There will be no golf rentals in April.
- Not a problem
- Drinks are for sale in the clubhouse, but must be carry-out only.
- If the clubhouse were open, who would you task to operate it? Who would you ask to put themselves in harm’s way? You already know my answer.
- Do not touch ball washers, flagpoles, or cups on the course.
- This may or may not work, but how would you know if this rule is being followed?
I stood by the decision we made to close the course on April 2nd and I stand by it now. I truly feel it was a prudent and wise decision. I hope and pray that we can regain some sense of normalcy soon.
I long for the day when we’ll see our kids flocking to the playgrounds, beaches, and ball fields. I look forward to seeing a long line of golf carts waiting on the #1 tee box and dozens of campers filling our local campgrounds. I’m saddened to see the streets in front of our local businesses barren and I look forward to the day they’re allowed to open and be ready for all of us to support them and our local industries as they return to prosperity. I pray these days will come soon. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Reach out to your neighbors and others in the community that could use a helping hand. Be a good person.
In Iowa and specifically Emmetsburg, we’ve become well-versed in the new art of social distancing. I’m proud to call Emmetsburg my home and I feel truly blessed to be your Mayor, even in these trying times. Please, let’s continue to be patient. I truly believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we’ll get there sooner than later if we continue to do our part to “flatten the curve”.