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Here’s what DPS and HSEM are doing about COVID-19

March 19, 2020

Two hotline operators answering phones at the State Emergency Operations Center


In an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s all hands on deck for all Minnesota state agencies. But that requires a lot of coordination and information-sharing – and that’s where the Department of Public Safety division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) comes in. They provide the virtual resources and physical spaces where personnel can work together to help the public through the COVID-19 emergency.

The best example is the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). It can be used for any public emergency or disaster – think spring flooding or an incident with one of our two nuclear power plants. But it can also be used for outbreaks of illness, which is why HSEM activated it following Gov. Tim Walz’s March 13 Peacetime State of Emergency order. Ordinarily, personnel from various agencies and organizations gather in the SEOC in person, but HSEM is committed to following the Minnesota Department of Health’s guidelines on social distancing. So most of the work is being done virtually, allowing state agencies to work in concert under a coordinated incident management system.

Part of the SEOC’s work is to run a hotline specific to school and child care issues. Minnesotans with questions about Gov. Walz’s executive order to close schools and provide child care to emergency workers statewide can call between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Staff from the departments of Education and Human Services are answering the hotline calls, and you can reach them at either
651-297-1304 or 800-657-3504. They received 1,500 calls on their first day of operation, so HSEM will expand the hotline if necessary.

If you have question about COVID-19 itself, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is running its own hotline. Its hours are also 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and you can reach it by calling 651-201-3920 or 800-657-3903, but MDH suggests visiting its COVID-19 website first before you call. You will find many resources and information that is updated regularly.

Daily updates on DPS, HSEM and SEOC activities related to COVID-19 will be posted on our Minnesota State Emergency Operations Center website. Additionally, we’re working with Twin Cities Public Television and MDH to translate our COVID-19 resources into Hmong, Somali and Spanish.

So what can you do? Check these resources frequently, and as usual, continue to:

  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Practice social distancing.

Stay safe and well, and know that DPS and all your state agencies are working hard to keep you that way.