ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Skyline Tower along Interstate 94 in St. Paul has become 24 floors of high anxiety. Residents said it is impossible to socially distance in the crowded public housing high rise with its crowded elevators, narrow hallways, and shared common areas.
In a letter to St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Sheriff Bob Fletcher writes that without help, “the Skyline Tower will become a cruise ship on steroids.”
“If there’s going to be a hot spot this will be it,” said Fletcher in an interview. “You look at the size of this building and the density, and the problem is they can’t socially distance here."
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office is now organizing an effort through its Help Team to supply donated homemade masks to protect residents in public housing high rises.
There are more than 2,000 residents of the Skyline Tower, many of them families from East Africa and seniors.
“They don’t know what’s going on and they lack resources,” said one of the community elders, Abdulahi, through a translator.
Residents said there is no hand sanitizer in the common areas of the complex and few masks.
Many of those who live in the complex have health conditions, like diabetes, asthma, and COPD, that could put them at particular risk of the Coronavirus.
Sheriff Fletcher said the mix of residents makes the situation as precarious as other congregate living situations, like prisons and nursing homes.
“This building is unique,” said Fletcher. “You have hundreds of children roaming this building, at the same time as hundreds of seniors. That’s the worst combination in today’s environment.”
In an email to Fletcher, Mayor Carter writes, “I share your concerns about the potential for community spread of COVID-19, both in hi-rise apartments in general, and specifically at 1247 St. Anthony.”
Carter asks if the Help Team could help with doing personal wellness checks, distributing information, and helping residents of the Skyline Tower access language resource lines.
The Ramsey Sheriff’s Office Help Team will pick-up donations of home-made masks. To schedule a pick-up people can call or text (651) 448-3874, or email HelpTeam@co.ramsey.mn.us.