Officials meet to get ahead of pandemic issues; Multi-Purpose Center closes

CITY leaders gathered for the first time Friday to discuss coronavirus and any possible effects it might have on the city residents. The group met again this Monday. Photo / Per Peterson

By Per Peterson

One of the first places Tracy’s new City Administrator Erik Hansen spent time at before starting his new job was the Multi-Purpose Center in downtown Tracy. On Friday, he made the difficult decision to temporarily close it over ongoing concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), which has taken a stranglehold on not only the country, but the world.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to ensure that our most vulnerable populations are protected, the City of Tracy has decided to close the Senior Center for the public for the next two weeks,” Hansen said.

The closure went into effect March 14. Those who depend on the noon meal can still receive Meals on Wheels.

Even though there have been no documented coronavirus cases in Tracy, or southwest Minnesota for that matter, Hansen decided to err on the side of caution when it comes to a facility that has grown to be a popular daily gathering place for numerous senior citizens.

“I think everybody understands the situation,” he said. “Based on what everybody else is doing — the hospital, assisted living — everybody is saying we have to protect the vulnerable population. If you really believe the health and safety of these people is the most important thing, that makes the decision easy.”

Closing the doors to the Center — which could possibly be for just two weeks — is the first major decision Hansen has had to make since settling into his new position on March 9.

“I appreciate the support on this,” he said. “This is just a short period of time in our lives, then normalcy will resume.”

Karla Seaberg, who cooks all the meals at the Center, said she was disappointed upon learning of the closure but understood why that step was taken.

Seaberg said delivery of food will continue as normal, with one exception: those delivering the meals will not come inside residents’ homes or apartments.

“We’ll knock on the door and have our delivery people remain outside to keep exposure to a minimum,” she said. “I had someone say, ‘When you come, can you stay for 15 or 20 minutes?’ and I can’t.”

Seaberg added that curbside pickup will also be available.

“I want the town to know that if anyone needs a meal, call me,” Seaberg said. “This is uncharted … none of us have seen this before. Lutheran Social Services’ Meals on Wheels program has not experienced this before, so in a way we’re going to be learning with everybody. What I do have is the ability to cook, and I plan on doing that as much as possible for anyone who needs it.”

Seaberg said anyone who has needs that need to be met — whether they’re in town or in the country — can call her at 629-5547 or 626-1486.

“If we have to deliver in the country, why not, as long as I have volunteers,” she said. “If people are finding shortages at the stores, call me. As of now, none of my routes for delivery have been affected. I’m ready, just let me know.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.