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Walz says Minnesota’s preparing for coronavirus

Plus: Twin Cities Costco shelves empty amid coronavirus fears; St. Cloud Press Bar owner arrested on arson suspicion; Eagle Brook megachurch pastor retires; and more.

Gov. Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Gov. Tim Walz
Getting prepared. The Star Tribune’s Jeremy Olson reports: “Gov. Tim Walz said Monday that Minnesota is rapidly gearing up for a novel coronavirus that emerged in China two months ago but is now spreading from person to person in the western U.S. and is expected to make its way across the country. … Preparations include state testing for the virus — a capability that had previously only existed within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other states that had already reported cases. The CDC had granted all other states the ability to test on their own late last week, and Walz said Minnesota health officials worked through the weekend to be able to do that. … ‘Preparation is not panic,’ Walz said.”

Panic! at the Costco. WCCO’s report: “As the coronavirus has made its way to the United States, medicine, food, water and other supplies are flying off the shelves at stores across Minnesota. … At Costco in Eden Prairie, customers have cleaned out the bread aisle. … Alison Pence was just doing her weekly shopping trip Sunday, but noticed the empty shelves. ‘I know what it’s about. It’s a lot of panic,’ Pence said. ‘There wasn’t much food left. The mac-n-cheese, the spaghetti, the water…’”

An inside job? The St. Cloud Times’s Randy Krebs and Clairissa Baker report:Press Bar owner Andy Welsh of St. Joseph is suspected of arson in the Feb. 17 fire that destroyed the landmark downtown bar on Fifth Avenue South. … The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team, the St. Cloud Fire Department, St. Cloud Police Department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office announced Saturday the fire was intentionally set. … Authorities also arrested Welsh on Saturday and booked him into Stearns County Jail, according to a news release from the ATF. Arson-related charges are pending.”

Great Merritt. The Star Tribune’s Jean Hopfensperger reports: “Bob Merritt was named pastor of First Baptist Church in White Bear Lake in 1991, the first step in the unexpected creation of one of the nation’s largest megachurches. … Its 300 members exploded to 25,000 over the years, and the church took a new name, Eagle Brook. The one building grew to nine campuses, from Wayzata to Woodbury to Rochester, making Merritt one of Minnesota’s best known clergy. … It’s been both an exhilarating and exhausting journey, Merritt said Sunday when he took the stage to thank his congregation and say farewell as he retires as senior pastor.

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