If a tree falls on a highway, will it stop the spread of COVID-19?

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office says don’t try to find out.

Early Monday morning a large tree was found blocking both lanes of Hwy. 61 near the Cook County line well up the North Shore and “was intentionally cut for this purpose.”

“It is believed that this action was taken in response to the influx of visitors to our area and the concerns of spreading COVID-19 to Cook County,” the sheriff’s office said.

Until this week, Cook County, home to Lutsen, Grand Marais and Grand Portage in the northeast corner of the state, was one of the last two counties in Minnesota that had yet to report a case of COVID-19. (The other is Lake of the Woods.) That changed Wednesday afternoon when Cook County health officials reported the county’s first confirmed COVID-19 case.

The infected person was identified as a male resident of the county in his 30s.

As for the tree, Sheriff Pat Eliasen said the stunt was “reckless, dangerous and uncalled for.”

“If there was a medical transport to Duluth which was a life or death matter and the ambulance was unable to continue due to this irresponsible conduct, the cost is far greater than making this type of statement,” he wrote on Facebook. “Not only does this endanger motorists, but there is also a significant cost to the taxpayers for removal of the tree.”

Minnesota Department of Transportation crews were called to haul the tree away.

Anyone with information on the would-be viral barrier is urged to call the sheriff at 1-218-387-3030 or e-mail pat.eliasen@co.cook.mn.us.