Hennepin County board chair: We needed ‘a little furry friend’

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

Hennepin County Board Chair Marion Greene and her husband, Bart Cannon, with their new dog, Indiana. Submitted photo

The county board had a briefing on the CARES Act allocation to Hennepin County. We’ve established some guiding principles for that money, and one is we should get that money out of the door and spend it sooner rather than later. At our last board meeting we had the first recommendations of what to do with that money, and I think we’re going to continue to do that until we’re down to a level where we need to hold onto it for ongoing expenses. I think it will reimburse some of the hotel spaces we’re renting for people experiencing homelessness. There are ways we’re retrofitting our spaces to meet with residents publicly, things like that. 

One thing we are trying to do is figure out how to respond in a meaningful way to long-term care facilities, because 85% of the deaths in Hennepin County are in long-term care facilities. We’re setting up a mobile testing unit through Hennepin Healthcare and also trying to offer public health expertise to those facilities, in case they want to work with somebody to figure out how to rearrange their space and do their business differently. 

We are trying to prepare for what public-facing services will look like. One thing that has made Hennepin County successful in remote work is the federal and state government have given us a lot of waivers for things that normally are required to be done in person. Hennepin County and practically every other county in Minnesota are working together to say, “Let’s leave those waivers in place.” They have enabled efficiency and innovation and the kinds of improvements in government and customer service that are needed. We shouldn’t let those kinds of improvements be left only to the private sector. By the time I retire I don’t want Hennepin County to send any faxes. Relatedly, if people need to see us in person for a driver’s license, let’s enable appointments for in-person services. That could help speed interactions and decrease the number of people in the waiting room. 

We’ve been on again, off again with the thought of adopting a dog. As soon as the shutdown order came and we started working from home, we said, “Let’s get a dog.” We immediately discovered we were not the only people to have this great idea and realized a little furry friend was what we needed to get through this. I’m allergic to most dogs, so we had some requirements and they seemed to be fulfilled by little Indiana. That’s the name he had; he’s a little rescue poodle and apparently they rescued 50 dogs in the same group and they gave them state names. There’s some debate on his age. The first vet thought he was 4 but the first vet who really looked at his teeth thought maybe a year-and-a-half. Just by virtue of his nature and playfulness, we think it’s closer to the younger side. I haven’t had a dog since I was growing up. We’re loving it so far. All the things are true, I think, in terms of the health benefits of having a pet. A nice benefit of a dog is we’re also walking. I feel as though it’s exactly as I hoped it would be. 

My feelings of restlessness kind of come and go. There’s a greater simplicity in life that I am appreciating. Yesterday my sister in-law who lives in St. Paul came and visited us and she kept a safe distance, but it was so nice to have that face-to-face interaction.


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