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Coronavirus In Minnesota: Impact Of COVID-19 Felt On State's Northern Border

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesotan's across the state are feeling the impact of COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order -- and that includes people on the northern border.

International Falls is seeing the effects from all sides.

"Horrible. It's horrible there's nothing open," said Rosie Klemetsen. "Anything you go to do there's nothing open."

In one of the most northern cities in the Northstar state, a community that relies heavily on summer tourist dollars is starting to wonder how they will get by.

"Business is definitely affected by it. Half the town is shut down," said Dylan Heldt.

Businesses in International Falls aren't just dealing with what's happening in Minnesota, they're impacted by what's happening in another country. And they don't know for sure when Canada will re-open its side of the border.

Gas stations in town have lost money from Canadians who usually cross over to buy cheaper gas. The same goes for Menard's, which does a lot of border business with Canadian customers.

"We're not able to get any first-hand information from anybody across the border," said Tony Jerulle.

Jerulle is co-owner of Sammy's Pizza. Deliveries and take out keep things going, but their sales are still down about 50%. Normally the fishing season helps- but they can't count on that this year.

"There aren't too many people coming to vacation in International Falls in January," said Jerulle. "It's mostly May through September and the town triples just with all the people around the lake."

A couple blocks away, Sportsmen's Service should be getting ready for Minnesotans heading north for next weekend's Canadian fishing opener. But co-owner Aaron Shuff says the only people getting across right now are essential employees and first responders.

"By now it should be picking up and it's just not. It's still pretty slow," said Shuff.

While Canada has far fewer COVID cases than the U.S. the feeling in International Falls is that the Canadian government is stricter. Which mean that even if the stay-at-home order is lifted here, it only solves half the problem.

"They can open our borders or loosen restrictions our way, but it's going back the other way that will be the hang-up," said Shuff.

Shuff said there is already talk that some businesses in International Falls will have to close for good even after restrictions are lifted.


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