Q: While hiking at Barn Bluff, it seemed like no one was social distancing, are the police enforcing or even concerned about social distancing?

A: Thank you for your question. Social distancing questions are one of the most frequent questions that police departments are facing during the current COVID-19 emergency. Social distancing, also called physical distancing, means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. This is one of the best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others when possible, even if you — or they — have no symptoms. To practice social or physical distancing:

  • Stay at least six feet (about two arms’ length) from other people
  • Do not gather in groups
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Physical distancing is primarily an individual responsibility, the main person that you have control over is yourself. Maintaining an appropriate distance is being respectful to others, as you do not know the personal struggles that they may have that place them at higher risks of serious illness if faced with the COVID-19 virus.

This is also difficult for people to practice as we are taught that personal space is two to four feet, so unless you are staying aware of your surroundings you may get closer to others than what is recommended during this time of emergency.

The governor’s executive orders allow law enforcement to cite individuals that willfully violate the requirements of the order with a misdemeanor offense. Our primary desire is to seek voluntary compliance and only to cite individuals that are willfully violating the orders. Depending on the situation and actions of the individual, other laws may also apply in certain situations.

Officers currently handle approximately 30 calls for service in a 24-hour time frame, because of the call load, physical distancing calls will be placed in the queue and handled in order of priority at that time. I recommend that if you feel someone is getting too close to you, please ask them to respect your physical distance.

Red Wing is a very compassionate community and the majority of people when politely asked about the violation will honor your request. If they refuse, you may call the police department at 651-385-3155 to report the situation. The Police Department also purchased signs to be placed along major trails and parks to remind individuals of the requirements during the COVID-19 emergency.

Physical distancing also applies to businesses, and neighborhoods, not just in the parks and trails. Large gatherings are prohibited, unless they meet certain exemptions allowed under the governor’s executive orders. If you witness a business or individuals (hosting large gatherings) not complying with the executive orders, please contact the Red Wing Police Department at 651-385-3155 or report it to the state hotline at 651-297-1304 or toll free at 1-800-657-3504.

References and resources

1. CDC Guidelines on social distancing, located online at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

2. Minnesota Department of Health, slowing the spread, located online at www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/action.html

3. Department of Public Safety’s Guidance to Local Law Enforcement Agencies related to Enforcement of Executive Order #20-20, dated April 8, 2020.

Submit your question to askthe.policechief@ci.red-wing.mn.us.

Generally one answer a week is posted RWPD social media sites and printed in the Red Wing Republican Eagle.