Tough call, but Center will remain closed

THE MULTI PURPOSE CENTER in downtown Tracy has been closed since March 14 because of COVID-19, and there is no telling when it will reopen — that is up to the State of Minnesota and its safety guidelines surrounding the pandemic. Photo / Per Peterson

By Per Peterson

The Multi Purpose Center in downtown Tracy likely won’t open anytime soon. However, the Tracy City Council on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to the Center — and the senior dining program — and adopted a policy to reopen the Center when it can.

The council regrets not being able to open the popular gathering place at this time, in accordance with state guidelines surrounding COVID-19, but did pass a resolution to set a policy on reopening in the future.

The resolution passed Monday states that the Center can reopen when the following conditions are met:

• when the state of emergency is lifted;

• when Lutheran Social Services (LSS) has agreed to restart the congregate dining program; and

• when the CDC, the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging (MNRAAA) concur that senior activities can resume.

“I know there’s a lot of anxiety in the community … is this ever going to come back, are we going to have this program again?” Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen said at Monday’s meeting. “It’s important that we talk about this issue and get some direction about when are we going to reopen this and under what conditions can that happen?”

Hansen said the council and City need to send a strong signal to the public that they stand behind the Center and are committed to reopening it.

“We also want to do it safely,” he said.

The Center has been closed since March 14; the council noted that according to the Centers For Disease Control, people 65 and older account for more than 80% of the state’s COVID-19-related deaths.

The current governor’s executive order states that “All indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people and all outdoor social gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited, and there is no exception for senior centers, meaning the 10-person limit applies. This order has no end date and is effective until lifted.

LSS has also said that it will not be restarting any of its congregate dining programs in the near future.

The City said it is difficult to put a specific date on when the center would reopen because it depends on a number of factors that are out of its control, such as LSS’s decision on congregate dining, governor’s orders, and recommendations from other agencies.

Hansen said virtually no community in the state is opening up their senior programming at this point. Hansen said while the governor’s executive order 20-74, doesn’t specifically say anything about senior centers, it does refer to indoor social gatherings, which limit indoor gatherings to 10 people in such public, city-owned buildings.

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