Blueberry Fest cancelled

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s biggest summer event - the Blueberry/Art Festival - won’t take place this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ely Chamber of Commerce pulled the plug on Good Friday and notified members with a late-afternoon email message that sent shockwaves through town and served as a devastating economic blow to a business community already reeling from a month-long, pandemic-related shutdown and statewide stay-at-home orders.
As many as 40,000 people usually pass through Whiteside Park during the three-day festival and the Ely area swells with visitors from around the state and beyond.
“I believe a lot of us could say it was the hardest business decision we’ve ever made,” said Brian Forsberg, who chairs the Chamber’s board of directors. “I think I can speak for the board on that. We all take the economic impact very seriously.”


BWCA closed to day and overnight use April 15 through May 4

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on April 9, that he will extend the state's Stay at Home order to May 4. In order to help lessen impacts to local communities while the state’s Stay at Home order is in place, and to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) will be closed for both day and overnight use from April 15 through May 4. Reservations made through May 4 will receive a full refund including reservations fees.

In alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health safety of its employees, partners and members of the public, the Superior National Forest will temporarily change permit pick-up requirements beginning May 5, for all BWCAW quota permits.


Minnesota current and former customers of Frontier eligible for rebates, bill credits following settlement

Current and former customers of Frontier Communications may be eligible for rebates or bill credits for certain past service quality and reliability problems. Those eligible are urged to act fast because the settlement claim period lasts 90-days beginning on April 13, 2020 and ending July 20, 2020.

“Thousands of Minnesotans across the state may be entitled to rebates or bill credits from this settlement,” said Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley. “Current and former Frontier customers should review the settlement categories soon to see if they qualify. The window to make claims is open now through July.”

Applications for refund or bill credit have been mailed to Frontier customers and are also available online at



Cleveland-Cliffs Announces Iron Ore Mining and Pelletizing Production Adjustments

Cleveland-Cliffs announced Monday that based on current market conditions, the company will be temporarily idling production at two of its iron ore mining operations, Northshore Mining in Minnesota and Tilden Mine in Michigan. Cleveland-Cliffs stated that it will work down current inventory levels from these two operations and will continue to ship iron ore to fulfill its commercial agreements with steel customers.


Ely area puzzles great for Stay at Home order

Eric Sherman saw a possible new product that could benefit from the state’s Stay at Home order: puzzles.
“With the COVID-19 thing and photography shut down I had enough time to think of new ideas and puzzles popped into my head,” said Sherman. “I put out the feelers and had 150 people say they wanted them.”
In just 12 days Sherman has sold 108 and believes they will be a big hit once he gets more in to sell. The first batch sold out right away. Sherman has ordered 320 more through the Ely Echo.
There are now nine different puzzles made from photos taken in the Ely area.
The puzzles are available at and will be at local retailers in Ely. The 500-piece puzzles cost $39.99 plus tax.


Ely motel may house virus victims

by Tom Coombe
Two Ely motel rooms are being reserved for local residents who might need “safe place to shelter” if they test positive for the coronavirus.
It’s part of a countywide effort to secure up to 90 rooms for people who may be required to self isolate, with St. Louis County teaming with entities including the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency to book rooms in Ely, Virginia, Hibbing and Duluth.
Social media posts Wednesday confirmed that Ely’s Adventure Inn is participating in the program.
Mayor Chuck Novak declined to identify the motel but offered more details about the initiative after speaking with county representatives, and amid erroneous reports that people from outside the area would be sent to Ely.
“The rooms that are being contracted in Ely are for the purpose of being available in case someone here tests positive,” said Novak. “They are not planning to send people from anywhere else here at this point.”


Technology hinders school rollout

by Tom Coombe
The first week of distance learning in Ely provided confirmation to what local officials have been contending for years: the digital divide is real.
Access to technology, and slow, intermittent and non-existent internet service have been among the obstacles faced by both Ely students and teachers as the school district began a distance learning initiatives that will extend at least until the end of April.
Superintendent Erik Erie said this week’s launch has “laid bare how difficult broadband service is around Ely.”
“We were a little surprised at first as most people appeared to have internet service and devices,” Erie said Thursday. “As we got into this, we’re getting more requests not only from students but faculty... Initially, we didn’t think we would need as many technology devices and help with the internet. That’s grown significantly.”


Ely couple fights illness on cruise that finally ends

Text message from Valerie Myntti sent at 2:50 p.m.
Hi Tom!
We are not sure if we will be able to disembark. We will have to pass an extensive medical screening.
We might have to quarantine onboard for an additional 14 days or at a family condo in South Beach (Miami). We are happy to do whatever the CDC and authorities advise. We are not interested in infecting anyone with whatever germs we have!!
We cannot wait to get back to our little red cabin at the end of the road. We have been in a windowless inside stateroom since March 22, amusing ourselves with cooking shows, and some good books! We need some sun and fresh air! And to see our lake!
Loads of love to all in Ely.


Distance learning starts in Ely

by Tom Coombe
Classrooms and hallways will be empty, but education in Ely will go on in unprecedented fashion.
Starting Monday, students in the Ely district will join thousands of their counterparts across Minnesota in “distance learning,” an initiative prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and on course to last at least through May 4.
For the last week-and-a-half, Ely teachers in both the Memorial (grades 6-12) and Washington (K-5) buildings have brainstormed and improvised, fast-tracking a curriculum conversion in an effort to continue to deliver education in an unconventional manner.
Instead of sitting in their classrooms, students will log on to the internet each day - using everything from email to Google Classroom and even YouTube to gather lessons and complete coursework.
“It’s going to look different in both buildings because you have that difference in age between high school and the elementary,” said high school principal Megan Anderson.


Second COVID-19 case announced in St. Louis County

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has confirmed the second presumptive case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in St. Louis County. The individual is a woman in her early 60s who is currently recovering at home. Her infection is linked to domestic travel, and not the result of community transmission. The woman was tested on March 19. It is believed she has had contact only with members of her immediate household, and they have been asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days from their exposure date and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

St. Louis County Public Health has not been asked to provide essential services.

"We are encouraged to hear that this again is a travel-connected case, and not community transmission," said County Board Chair Mike Jugovich, "But we also recognize it is likely only a matter of time, and that is why we continue to emphasize the preventive recommendations to all."


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