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EDITORIAL: Blueberry decision seemed rushed

A decision by the Ely Chamber of Commerce board of directors to cancel this year’s Blueberry/Art Festival seemed rushed and could have been delayed.
The announcement came over 100 days from the July 24 start of the three day event, Ely’s largest tourist attraction each year. Thousands of people flood the community and businesses cite that weekend as being the one that pays the bills and helps keep them afloat through the rough winters we have here.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a worldwide impact, no doubt, and has been devastating in Ely economically but not medically. Through a stroke of luck, social distancing or the grace of God, our hospital has not been overrun or our clinic taxed to provide services.
So far the opposite has been the case. The clinic had to send word out this week that they are open for business. Our hospital has also been hurt by a drop in patients utilizing services including physical therapy, cardiac rehab and infusions and chemotherapy .
This is the result of a one-size fits all solution to a problem. None of us knows what the future holds but we do know that as of today, the state of Minnesota has largely avoided a predicted coronavirus surge.
There have been a total of 87 deaths in the state through Wednesday. Of those just 22 were not in nursing home or assisted living settings. It’s clear the state as a whole has not been affected to the degree predicted by our governor.
With that in mind, a decision to cancel at this point is premature and should be revisited and reversed. Planning can continue and there can even be notice provided to vendors that there is a possibility of a postponement or cancellation of the event.
Ely businesses, many of which are only open for the summer months, are already suffering under the closures ordered by Gov. Walz. Some may not reopen. Knowing that they won’t have their biggest weekend of the year is hardly an incentive to roll out the welcome mat.
Our fragile tourism economy cannot afford the loss of the Blueberry/Art Festival. Even with the financial assistance being offered by the federal and state government, there is no way to plug that hole.
We don’t believe this is an either or scenario where lockdown is the only answer to maintaining public health.
Take some more time, take emotion out of the equation and give our businesses, their employees and our community as a whole a fighting chance.

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