Hennepin County board chair: ‘We need to be ready’ for many more cases

Marion Greene, Hennepin County Board Chair
Marion Greene, Hennepin County Board Chair

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Marion Greene, Hennepin County Board Chair

Last week we had our first remote board meeting. That was kind of unusual to prepare for.  It definitely was a sign of the times and we’re going to have more of those obviously.

For me, legislatively, the focus is to remove barriers for county administration. They need to move as fast as they can and respond to realistic needs for new supplies as fast as they can. But of course, even in these times, there are checks and balances. It is this mixture of maintaining oversight, but also removing barriers. 

Everyone wants to feel like they’re doing as much as they can. I certainly wrestle with, “Is this as much as I can do? Should I be rolling bandages at night?”

Our mindset is that more cases are going to go way up, and we need to be ready. We need to prepare the organization and specifically our health care arm for that. I don’t want to diminish the mathematics of the situation, but in a way, we can’t get caught up in it, because we need to just be as ready as we possibly can, and the mathematics don’t change that. In this situation, I feel a little divorced from the numbers because I know we have to get as ready as possible. Although, of course, as the numbers mount, it’s definitely alarming. 

Certainly, when we heard of the first death, I thought, “OK, this is the beginning of that news and it’s just going to get worse.” Like anything at this time, there’s this unknown. How bad is it going to get? How long is it going to go on? In every facet, stamina is needed. 

The acts of kindness abound. It’s incredible to see people’s creativity and see the community rising to the situation. Everybody’s using their connections. I’ve gotten to know, via email, a public health and science writer who has connections all over the world. She had ideas for connections to pursue for supplies. I’ve gotten a number of emails from constituents saying, “I know this person, I want to connect them with you and your supply chain person.” That’s been really neat to see and be a part of. We need every one of those connections, for those reading at home.

The tree stump incident had a happy resolution. Initially we had asked them not to take the tree stump out and the crew was great to work with. Then the foreman called Bart [Greene’s husband] and they came back and took the tree stump out and all is well. We’re still logged in and we really appreciated the call back. They kind of gently said, “It’s going to be fine” and it has been.