COVID cases plummet in Ely

by Tom Coombe
Reported cases of Covid -19 have declined dramatically in the Ely area, to a point that in-person learning would be allowed per current guidelines.
According to data released Thursday, only three new positive tests were reported among residents of the 55731 zip code in the last three days, and 10 overall in the last two weeks.
That’s in comparison to 40 in a two-week period that ended Dec. 3 and 57 from Nov. 14-27, and has brought Covid case rates to levels consistent to when the Ely schools provided in-person learning earlier this school year.
Ely’s zip code case rate per 10,000 in the last 14 days has plummeted to 16.11, compared to 37.04 last week and 91.80 Nov. 27.
Guidelines released by the state of Minnesota earlier this year suggest full in-person learning for rates of 10 and under, with rates between 10 and 19.99 recommended for in-person learning for elementary schools and hybrid at the secondary level.


Burglary charges stem from break-in

A Dec. 10 incident at the Zenith Apartments has resulted in felony charges against two Ely men.
Court documents say that two counts of first-degree burglary have been filed against Ashton Swanson, 23, and Justin McNulty, 24.
Both were also charged with fifth-degree misdemeanor assault in connection with an early-morning incident inside an apartment at the Camp Street complex.
According to a criminal complaint filed by the Ely Police Department, officers were dispatched to a Zenith apartment shortly after midnight.
Upon arrival, police found broken glass suggesting a window was broken from the outside, and a male occupant on his hands and knees.
The male was found with multiple scratches on his back, multiple bruises on his face and a bloody mouth, and told police he was attacked by both Swanson and McNulty.


Zup’s plans to purchase Ely Northland Market

Ely’s two major grocers have come together on a deal that will eventually result in one grocery store in town - in the now vacant Shopko building.
Zup’s Food Market and Ely Northland Market announced the partnership Wednesday night.
Zup’s will purchase Ely Northland Market in early-2021 and both stores will continue to operate as they currently have been until later in the year, when the 32,000 square foot Shopko building becomes the new home to Zup’s and Ely Northland Market.
Once the purchase is final, employees from both stores will work together as one big group.
“It makes perfect sense,” said Donna Richards, who along with her husband Jim will sell ENM after purchasing it in 2003. “The best of both stores are moving into one.”
“We’re very excited about it,” added Jim Zupancich Jr. “As a family, we’re excited and our employees are excited as well.”


Ely Area Food Shelf gets a truck

The Ely Area Food Shelf is very grateful to have received a Minnesota Department of Human Services COVID-19 Transportation Grant that has enabled them to purchase this truck. Historically the people in need of food have come, once a month to the building at 15 W. Conan Street in Ely to select food items. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that they had to move to a more decentralized, mobile food shelf model, in order to best address food insecurity for people in need throughout the greater Ely area. The new truck will enable the Ely Area Food Shelf to continue to make healthy and nutritious food accessible to people who need it the most - older adults, people who are homebound and they will be able to further expand into rural communities. Currently they are looking for a “winter home” for the truck to keep it out of the elements. Call 218-235-6128 if able to help. Photo by Cam Weisert.


Mrs. Claus Party has new look

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in Ely as scheduled on Saturday, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a change in their plans.
Instead of gathering indoors, they’ll be outside as part of the new-look Santa and Mrs. Claus Party put on by the Ely Chamber of Commerce.
The event will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the Chamber headquarters, located on the east end of town.
Due to health concerns and efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19, organizers have put together a new format for the annual event.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be positioned outside the Chamber building to wave and share holiday greetings, but event participants are asked to remain in their vehicles.
Event planners are asking youth and adults to drive in on the 16th Avenue (Subway side) of the Chamber lot, and they will be able to view Santa and Mrs. Clause extending their greetings.


Ely man found to be safe after extensive search

An Ely man was located and found to be safe several days after he went missing.
The Ely Police Department confirmed Tuesday that Michael Jacobson, 37, was “located safe by law enforcement” that day.
Further details, including where he was located, were not immediately available.
The announcement capped days of speculation, including a search by law enforcement and searches of area lakes and landings by numerous Ely area volunteers
The search for Jacobson was fueled in part by social media reports and announcements, particularly late Saturday and into Sunday.
On Sunday morning, many hours after volunteers had been searching for Jacobson, police announced that he was missing and sought public assistance.
Jacobson had last been seen at his place of employment, a local bait and tackle story, the morning of Dec. 3.


Just in time for the holidays, online shoppers can go to the Boundary Waters Marketplace

by Nick Wognum
A new way to shop for different products from the Ely area is now available online at
“We were going to use Elyzon but it wasn’t available so we went with the Boundary Waters Marketplace,” said Eric Sherman who is coordinating the project with Melissa Hart.
Sherman said the goal is to give people looking for locally made products a one stop option and to give sellers a way to market their products more effectively.
“The goal is to keep local businesses in the spotlight and steer potential shoppers that way,” said Sherman. He posted the idea on Facebook where Hart saw the favorable comments.
For Hart, this was a natural next step.
“I actually had the platform that was doing what he was describing, “I had a website set up where I do fundraising selling shirts for clubs,” said Hart.


BREAKING NEWS: Zup’s Food Markets purchases Ely Shopko building

The vacant Ely Shopko building will have a new owner following the purchase Monday by Zup’s Food Markets.
Shopko closed its Ely store in June of 2019 as part of a company-wide bankruptcy. The building has been empty since that time.
Jim Zupancich Jr. confirmed the purchase Wednesday.
“We have purchased the building and we’re looking at a future expansion to that location. We plan to work with the City of Ely and the IRRRB to bring our world-class sausage facility to the building,” said Zupancich. “We’d like to thank Senator Tom Bakk, Representative Rob Ecklund, St. Louis County Commissioner Paul McDonald and IRR Commissioner Mark Phillips for working with us on this.”
The goal is for Zup’s to move into the Shopko building by September of 2021.


School moves to distance

by Tom Coombe
Starting Monday, classrooms in the Ely schools will be noticeably empty.
Students will learn from home, for at least four weeks, as part of a change finalized by district officials and formally rolled out late Monday.
After a sizeable increase in COVID-19 case numbers in the northern half of St. Louis County and in Ely, the district will switch to a distance learning model this week, with an anticipated date of return slated for Jan. 11.
Tuesday was the final day of in-person learning at Washington Elementary while middle and high school students will transition out of a hybrid model that had been in place since mid-September.
After time for teacher preparation, distance learning starts Wednesday for grades 6-12 and Thursday in the elementary school.


Drawings for Ely school addition revised

by Tom Coombe
Revised plans offer a more detailed glimpse of the key component of a nearly $20 million school facilities project: a new structure that will link the Washington and Memorial buildings.
While renovations to those facilities are part of the project, the centerpiece of a plan approved by voters earlier this year is a brand-new building that will provide a main, secure entry to the campus and house a new gymnasium, cafeteria, media center, common spaces, offices and classrooms.
Architects have been on campus several times to tour the facilities and gather input from school staff, and they’ve made several modifications from initial plans as a result.
School board members looked at the latest renditions at Monday’s study session and administrators endorsed the latest concepts.
“I’m pretty content where we’re at with this plan,”said high school principal Megan Anderson. “I think this has been the best of what we’ve seen so far.”


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