The Best We Can Do

Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega

I appreciate the chance to share my impressions of how life has changed during COVID-19. Of course, it’s a different world, both professionally and personally, and I have found that I miss many aspects of “normal life.” But I’ve seen a lot of change in my life and I’ve always thought that it’s important to be open to situations where the new ways are better than the old, so I’m trying to stay observant for that.

Personally, it has been like night and day. 

My calendar before this was full of business and constituent meetings, multiple events most evenings, and visits to the capitol in Washington or St. Paul. In between I often walked from my building in downtown to the courthouse or other locations and ate lunch and dinner at great restaurants throughout my district. Then, my calendar was emptied.

Many of those meetings have been rescheduled virtually, but it is not the same. I see fewer people and they participate less and we all have to work harder to connect. And the inability to have informal conversations one-on-one or two-on-one or read the body language around the table is challenging. Part of my job of course is to represent folks in my district and walking through crowded skyways, eating at restaurants, just going to graduation parties and barbecues are crucial ways to know what people are thinking. And I assure you that people let me know! So, I miss person to person contact and there is no substitute.

At the same time, we at the county have completely changed our services, closing our public buildings and replacing person to person contact with indirect service to protect our clients and our staff. For all the details, please visit our website at ramseycounty.us/COVID-19-info/county-services-initiatives/coronavirus-impacts-county-services. We are conducting our non-emergency business using our call center and drop boxes and people are really appreciating more options. Voting by mail is an example where things may be better than they’ve ever been. Obviously, it’s safer for everybody but it may lead to more people voting as well. On the negative side, residents at our care center can no longer physically be with loved ones. We are now providing windows where residents can see and talk to their family. It isn’t the same, but it’s the best we can do.

I miss you all and I continue to be available by email (rafael.e.ortega@co.ramsey.mn.us) and phone (651-266-8361). Stay safe and healthy. 

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