Should I Wear a Mask on the North Shore, MN?

Should I wear a mask on the North Shore, MN?

Short answer: Yes. Especially in Cook County, you may not be allowed inside businesses without wearing a mask. Are visitors welcome? Definietly, yes! Read on and I’ll explain more.

The business community loves its neighbors and communities! They want to keep them safe while continuing to be open to visitors. Since the Covid-19 Stay at Home Order was issued in March 2020, businesses on the North Shore, MN have worked hard at plans to do just that. 

But every business and every community around the world is doing that, right? Even still, depending on where you are around the country, there are different attitudes and expectations about social distancing and wearing a mask. 

Social Distancing on the North Shore, MN

Wearing a mask on the North Shore, MN is taken seriously. Here is why. 

When all the visitors go home, the North Shore is just a dotting of small, rural communities. We depend on tourism and want to – need to – continue to have our doors open to visitors to share our unique treasures. The treasures found both outdoors along Lake Superior, and inside our shops, restaurants, and stores. 

Our small communities have limited resources. Especially in Cook County (Schroeder, Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Marais, Gunflint Trail, Grand Portage), there are barely enough local people to employ the businesses that serve you. What happens if they get sick and people can’t work? Then they need to close. Not just to visitors, but to the local residents that live here and depend on the services. We will need to go back into lock-down. And nobody wants that! 

Social distancing sign in Grand Marais, MN

For perspective:

The protocol set forth by the Cook County, MN Public Health and Human Services says that if one person in a workplace becomes infected, the other employees that were ever within 6 feet (with or without masks) will need to quarantine for 14 days.

That essentially means that most – if not all – of the employees of these small mom-and-pop stores (including grocery stores and pharmacies), will need to quarantine. Therefore, the store must close. Because of a small population, there are no other people to come and fill those positions temporarily. And if the owner/manager is in quarantine, they won’t be able to train new staff to keep the store open anyway.

If you live in Grand Marais, MN and the grocery stores close, it’s a 45-minute drive to Silver Bay to the next grocery store or pharmacy. If that one is closed, you’re driving 2 hours one way to Two Harbors.

Consider that if you live in Grand Marais, MN and get COVID-19, it’s 2.5 hours to Duluth, MN for critical care. Our community hospitals do not have the resources to care for COVID patients. There are no ventilators on the North Shore, MN.  

This is not intended to make visitors feel unwelcome. It is just the reality faced by local residents. I bring it to light so visitors understand the circumstances and become willingly engaged in the social distancing and mask-wearing culture on the North Shore, especially in Cook County.  

Should I wear a mask on the North Shore, MN?

Therefore, in order to stay open, it is essential to keep our North Shore, MN communities safe from Coronavirus.

So, how do we do that? By taking precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask, sanitizing, and limiting capacity.

North Shore MN sign on social distancing

North Shore MN sign on social distancing

Some businesses suggest wearing a mask but do not require it (think, gas stations). Others are requiring masks to come inside.

Cook County is especially serious about this. You will not be allowed inside most businesses without a mask.

You may find a greeter at the door who will ask you to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, direct you to one-way aisles, or ask you to stand in line if the store is at capacity. 

social distancing, North Shore, MN

The owner of the Lake Superior Trading Post greets guests at the front door.

Restaurants are offering outdoor seating, curbside service, or are taking inside seating by reservation. (See my article on picnic areas where you can enjoy great food from local restaurants.)

In Grand Marais, some shops are offering services through a window. One of the grocery stores is curbside only. 

Naturally, business owners and the tourism community have a stake in serving visitors and keeping themselves, their employees, their families, and their neighbors safe from Coronavirus. We all have a responsibility (both businesses and visitors) to care for our neighbors and communities.

If you have questions about the social distancing protocols at your favorite shops or restaurants, I recommend to check their website or contact them directly and ask. You could also contact your lodging property, the Lake County Chamber, or Visit Cook County.

This is our new normal whether we like it or not

North Shore, MN businesses are following the recommendations from the CDC, the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development, and their local health clinics.  

Because of Covid-19, businesses have had to make tough decisions, and have opted to take some revenue losses in order to accommodate social distancing and safety (by limiting capacity, for example). They are not doing this to create an unpleasant experience for you. Do not take it personally, or as a political statement. It’s for yours and their safety as per the recommendations of public health professionals. 

North Shore MN businesses are limiting occupancy due to Covid-19 Masks required in Cook County, MN

If you don’t want to wear a mask, follow the social distancing and sanitizing rules, and possibly wait in line to enter a store, you may want to consider coming when the pandemic is over. 

Otherwise, visitors are having a lovely time shopping and enjoying the towns while being patient and wearing a mask! And, there’s lots of wonderful outdoor space to enjoy!

Visitor to the North Shore MN shopping while wearing a face covering.

Visitor shopping inside Joynes’ Ben Franklin while wearing a face covering.

Outdoor mask-wearing on the North Shore, MN

Being able to spread out in the great outdoors is one reason many people are flocking to the North Shore, MN during the summer of Coronavirus. And believe me, they are flocking! 

Don’t be surprised if you encounter large crowds at some of the most popular outdoor sights like Gooseberry Falls, and other Minnesota State Parks. You may also encounter groups of people in parking lots, walking around town, standing in line, or on a popular hiking trail.

The virus can still be spread by droplets from your breath, cough, or sneeze even if you are outdoors. And remember, you can have (and spread) the virus without even knowing it! 

So, when you’re outdoors around other people, especially multiple people or groups, wear a mask to protect others. If there are no other people directly around you or in the area, go ahead and take your mask off. 

If you are more comfortable in a less crowded environment, consider enjoying these areas during off-peak times such as earlier in the day or later in the evenings. I also suggest planning your visit during midweek, instead of over the weekend. 

Help the North Shore stay open by following these guidelines: 

  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Be polite and respect the request of the business to wear a mask, social distance, use sanitizer, wait in line, etc. 
  • Stand 6 feet apart. 
  • Be patient. 
  • Wash your hands frequently, and use hand sanitizer when available. 
  • Come prepared – travel with essentials like groceries, cleaning, and sanitation supplies. Supplies in rural communities can be limited. 
  • If you get sick while you are on the North Shore, the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in Grand Marais is recommending for you to go home immediately and see your normal physician, rather than visit the local clinic.

Take the COVID-19 Visitor Pledge!

Visit Cook County, MN Stay One Moose Apart

Visit Cook County, MN Stay One Moose Apart

The visitor bureaus for both Lake County (Two Harbors – Silver Bay), and Cook County (Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Marais, Gunflint Trail, Grand Portage) have invited visitors to pledge to reduce the spread of Coronavirus by following a few simple guidelines (which were summarized above). 

Sign the Lake County Pledge

Sign the Visit Cook County Pledge

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