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Amazon workers in Shakopee walk off job over COVID-19 safety concerns

Plus: Twin Cities metro sees 51% increase in walking and bicycling in past five weeks; uncertainty for summer camps amid coronavirus; nurses’ union criticizes state order allowing out-of-state medical personnel to work in Minnesota during pandemic; and more.

Amazon fulfillment center
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
WCCO-TV reports: “More than 50 Amazon warehouse workers in Shakopee walked off the job early Sunday morning due to COVID-19 concerns. According to employees, the decision was made after workers reportedly discovered two confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the facility. In addition, employees say a worker who has been staying at home on unpaid time due to fear of spreading the virus to her family has been terminated. The group, which is co-led by Hafsa Hassan, says this comes as hundreds of Amazon workers are protesting the company’s decision to eliminate its unlimited unpaid time off.”

The Star Tribune’s Tim Harlow writes: “Data from the Minnesota Department of Transportation show a 51% increase in walking and bicycling in the metro area over the past five weeks — since Gov. Tim Walz issued a peacetime emergency and enacted a stay-at-home order — when compared to the same time frame over the past few years. Statewide, those activities are up 72% since mid-March, based on information collected from MnDOT’s permanent and portable pedestrian and bicyclist counters.”

From the Associated Press: “The U.S. Census Bureau needs more time to wrap up the once-a-decade count because of the coronavirus, opening the possibility of delays in drawing new legislative districts that could help determine what political party is in power, what laws pass or fail and whether communities of color get a voice in their states. … The monthslong delay in census data could make a divisive process more complicated, potentially forcing lawmakers into costly special sessions to complete the work or postponing some primary elections.”

At The Hill Justine Coleman says, “Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Sunday that Minnesota is suffering from a ‘lack of national strategy’ on how to respond to the coronavirus crisis. The former 2020 presidential candidate said on ABC’s ‘This Week’ that Minnesota ‘like every state’ needs a national strategy for testing to move toward reopening businesses. She said that planning ‘should have happened months ago.’ ‘We can tune out this president’s rants about chugging bleach, but we can’t tune out the fact that we have a lack of protective equipment, that we do not have enough testing, that there is an absence of national leadership,’ she told host George Stephanopoulos.”

WCCO-TV says, “Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s husband John Bessler on Sunday announced his recent participation in an experimental treatment for COVID-19 after recovering from the virus himself. … He participated in the federally-sponsored Expanded Access Program for Convalescent Plasma. Officials say he was the seventh person to donate plasma as part of the Mayo Clinic’s program in Minnesota. Thousands of other recovered COVID-19 patients have participated nationwide.”

Says the Star Tribune’s Jessie Van Berkel, “The tax and fee dollars that pay for state road repairs are expected to plummet as Minnesotans dramatically cut their driving time and buy fewer cars amid the COVID-19 crisis. The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates it will take in $440 million less than anticipated over this year and next. Despite the losses, transportation officials say road projects are moving forward as anticipated this year — but it’s too soon to tell what the long-term impacts will be.”

At MPR, Dan Kraker says, “The coronavirus pandemic has thrown summer camps — along with much of summer — up in the air. A few camps have already decided to cancel, including the Legionville School Patrol Camp in Brainerd, which trains more than 1,000 grade schoolers every summer to be school patrol members, who help younger students cross the street. The camp has been running since 1935. Other camps have delayed their openings. But most are holding tight, waiting for further guidance from state and federal officials about whether they can operate — and if they can, what changes they might have to make to keep kids and staff safe.”

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Also at MPR, this from Mike Moen, “A union representing nurses in Minnesota is criticizing a state order allowing out-of-state medical personnel to work in Minnesota during the coronavirus pandemic without additional license requirements. Minnesota Nurses Association president Mary Turner said Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order, signed over the weekend, is ‘extremely disappointing when health system after health system is furloughing and laying off Minnesota nurses who want to work’.”

At Fox Business, Evie Fordham reports, “Smithfield Foods is pushing back after media reports that it blamed immigrant workers for a coronavirus cluster at its temporarily closed Sioux Falls, South Dakota, pork processing plant. … Plant management told the CDC that over 40 languages were spoken at the plant, making it difficult to communicate guidance to employees. The agency recommended that Smithfield post signs with pictograms and in more languages to communicate vital information to employees.”

Says Paul Walsh in the Star Tribune, “Arson is suspected in a late-night fire at a paper recycling plant west of downtown Minneapolis that burned large bales of paper and stacks of wooden pallets. … Mark Elsbernd, an executive with the company, told the Star Tribune that video surveillance images show one of two suspects setting one compressed bale of paper on fire, which then spread to many other bales. He said the bales weigh about 2,000 pounds each.”