At a time when the COVID-19 outbreak has schools and businesses
cutting back hours or closing their doors completely, one place that hasn’t
seen a change is the License Bureau in the Wright County Government Center.
With the guidance from the Minnesota Department of
Health to enact “social distancing” – trying to avoid contact with people and
maintaining a distance of six feet from others – the License Bureau has long
lines of people standing within a foot of others for long periods of time.
License Bureau Supervisor Becky Aanerud said that
there are alternatives for people in need of license tab renewals and applying
for enhanced or Real ID. As we’ve seen in many stores over the past week, a run
on specific food items and products like sanitary wipes, masks, toilet paper,
hand sanitizer and paper towels have cleared off shelves, she wants to avoid people
feeling the need that they have to get to the License Bureau at this time.
“I want people to know that they do not have to panic,”
Aanerud said. “A lot of our business is Real ID in terms of the time it takes
to complete. Many of those are renewing a license that doesn’t expire for a
year or more. If their license is good for two years, don’t come in and switch
it over now and join the crowds. We’re supposed to be avoiding crowds, not
Adding to the problem is that several license offices
in the Twin Cities have shut down due to the threat of COVID-19. In addition,
the DMV office in Delano closed its doors Monday morning for the same reason.
Aanerud’s concern is that those closures (and potentially more to come) will
add to the lines at the Government Center, bringing additional burden to a
staff that is getting buried in Real ID paperwork already.
With schools closed, many parents are using the opportunity
to run errands, which can include doing county business. If someone is in need
of license tabs, Aanerud said there is an easy, viable alternative that won’t put
people in contact with anyone at the Government Center – drop off your payment
and tab statement in the drop box at the entrance to the building.
“I want people to be realistic and use our drop boxes
and the mail,” Aanerud said. “We check the drop boxes every day and process
license tab requests usually on the same day. We will do our best to return
phone calls, but it’s getting very difficult to pick up the phone and be
working at the counter at the same time. People are getting angry with us because
we can’t pick up the phone, but we take seriously the people who are at the
She also wanted to stress that, at this time when unprecedented
measures are being made locally, statewide, nationwide and worldwide to reduce
the interaction of people in hopes of trying to keep the spread of COVID-19 to
a minimum, making an unnecessary trip to county buildings is putting people at
greater risk of contracting the virus.
She reminds those coming in to get the Real ID licenses
that, if their license isn’t expiring soon, if they have a passport they don’t
need Real ID and, for those who don’t, the restrictions don’t begin until
“If you have a passport, you already have Real ID,”
Aanerud said. “It acts exactly the same. On Oct. 1, if you want to fly on a domestic
flight, having your passport serves the same function as having Real ID. For those
people, we encourage them to wait until their license is scheduled to expire
and they can get their license changed over to Real ID at that time.”
The decisions being made at the national, state and
local level have been fluid and changing from one day to the next and, at
times, one hour to the next. Aanerud said her office remains open, but is
urging people who don’t need immediate assistance to err on the side of caution
during the next few weeks because there is a lot at stake and the health and wellbeing
of Wright County residents is the goal.
“People need to put this all in perspective of what is
important,” Aanerud said. “Is it important to get your driver’s license renewed
early or to get a Real ID right now when we’re dealing with a pandemic? No, it’s
not. I think our families and our communities are more important than that.”