It’s not even summer and we have to worry about mosquitoes. Daniel White at TIME magazine reports, “A case of the Zika virus has been confirmed Wednesday in a Minnesota woman who traveled to Central America, health officials said. The Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the woman began showing symptoms Jan. 1, after she traveled to Honduras. The woman was not hospitalized and officials say they expect her to make a full recovery. This is the first Zika virus infection in Minnesota since 2014 and state health officials advised travelers not to panic but to be weary when going to regions where infections are common.”
At USA Today Liz Szabo says, “About a dozen Americans in a handful of states have been diagnosed with Zika after visiting outbreak zones, but there is no evidence the virus, which is linked to an outbreak of birth defects in Brazil, is spreading in the USA. The virus doesn’t spread from person to person, like the flu. It’s spread by mosquitoes, like malaria and West Nile Virus. The mosquito species that is known to spread Zika, the Aedes, doesn’t live in Minnesota, making it unlikely the disease will spread in that state.”
Hey Kessler, you might think about having someone else start your car. WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler reports on “back door pay hikes” for our hard-working legislators. “Members of the Minnesota House and Senate racked up almost $2 million dollars in extra pay last year — over and above their legislative salaries. It came in the form of daily expense payments called ‘per diem,’ totalling $1,925,621 in public funds during 2015. Minnesota lawmakers haven’t had a pay hike since 1999 — they haven’t voted to give themselves a raise because of the political controversy it generates. But per diem payments can significantly boost a lawmaker’s salary — as much as 50 percent.”
The new guy at the zoo is talking conservation. Beatrice DuPuy of the Strib says, “The Minnesota Zoo’s new director says conservation programs and reaching out into the community are his top priorities for the Apple Valley zoo. He also faces the challenge of persuading the Legislature to authorize the money to help shore up the nearly 40-year-old zoo’s infrastructure. The zoo’s board of directors Wednesday approved the hiring of John Frawley, CEO of a nonprofit San Francisco conservation coalition, as the new director and president.”
Today’s app for stressed-out teens. Jonathan Choe at KMSP-TV says, “A small town school in southern Minnesota is using technology to solve some big time problems facing many teens. Their smart phone app helps students reach out for help if they’re overwhelmed with the challenges of life like anxiety and bullying. This idea recently won a statewide competition. Now these Cleveland High School students are taking on other innovators from across the country who are trying to make a difference.”
Says David Peterson in the Strib, “Rapid growth in Minnesota’s black population may well explain what appeared at first to be a sudden drop in that group’s prosperity. The number of black residents increased by nearly 40,000 in just the past four years, a bigger increase than occurred in the state’s white population. The number of people who reported difficulty speaking English also jumped sharply in a single year, providing one of the clearest indicators of why median black household income slumped between 2013 and 2014.”
Now, $23 billion is a lot of dough. Says Lorna Benson at MPR, “New research from the state Health Department finds that chronic diseases are surprisingly expensive in Minnesota. Few would be surprised to hear that chronic conditions account for a large share of health spending. But for the first time, the state has been able to place a dollar figure on the cost of long-running health problems: nearly $23 billion. And that number probably understates the true cost, because certain demographic groups weren’t included in the tally. … Almost half of all medical spending for the insured in 2012 went to care for high blood pressure patients.” I was going to bet diabetes.
If not the Zika virus, how about fretting over water, like Flint? A story at WCCO-TV says, “The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says testing has shown no lead in municipal water systems. However, it says anyone with a home built before 1986 is at risk for having lead in their water. While the use of lead pipes was phased out in 1927, lead was widely used in soldering and other pipe components through 1986. On Wednesday, the state of Minnesota updated their website with more information on lead safety.”
Attorney Dean Strang of “Making a Murder” notoriety made a couple stops in town yesterday. The Strib’s Maya Rao reports, “Strang stopped at the Minnesota Capitol on Wednesday … . The attorney was asked whether the public needed another perspective from prosecutor Ken Kratz, who has said that the series left out important facts about Avery and that he plans to write a book about the case. Strang said the more perspectives on the trial, the better, but he stressed the importance of not becoming ‘lost playing second-string jurors and after-the-fact armchair sleuths.’ He added: ‘The value to me of the documentary or any book about the case ought to be asking bigger questions about the system and the reality of the outcomes we achieve in our criminal justice system.’”
Speaking of lawyers, Paul Walsh of the Strib says, “A northwestern Minnesota woman is suing her employer, Essentia Health, and her medical insurance provider, HealthPartners, alleging that her 17-year-old was denied coverage for medication and surgery to help him transition from a female to a male. The suit filed in federal court in St. Paul by Brittany Tovar, who works as a family nurse practitioner for Essentia’s hospital in Ada, said her teen was found in November 2014 to have gender dysphoria, meaning his gender identity was different from what was assigned at birth.”
Here’s another place that’d never let me in. Stribber Natalie Daher writes, “Volstead’s Emporium opened late last year in Minneapolis with no promotion, website or social media listing of its Lyn-Lake area address. Emblematic of the Prohibition era, guests must navigate a dark alley until they stumble upon a door with an eye-level slot, leading to the subterranean sanctuary of red velvet and chandeliers. The entrance to Volstead’s Emporium, a nondescript steel door with a peep slot, is known only by word of mouth.” But does it have free popcorn and pulltabs?