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U.S. death toll from coronavirus now highest in the world

Plus: winter storm hits southern Minnesota; drug seen as ‘ray of hope’ in fighting COVID-19 gets clinical trials in Minnesota; Viking to launch new vessel to cruise Mississippi River starting in 2022; and more.

The Associated Press reports. “The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed Italy’s for the highest in the world Saturday, surpassing 20,000, as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in victims and moved to snuff out smoldering hot spots of contagion before they erupt.

MPR’s Ron Trenda writes: “Snow has spread across much of the southern half of Minnesota as of 6 a.m., with pockets of rain from the southeastern part of the Twin Cities metro area into southeastern Minnesota and portions of western Wisconsin. Areas that have rain or a rain/snow mix early this morning will see a transition to all snow. … The heaviest snow will tend to fall from southern Minnesota into Wisconsin, but the southern and eastern parts of the Twin Cities metro may see 6 to 8 inches of snow before it ends.

WCCO-TV reports:A Twin Cities family’s act of kindness is spreading far and wide. The Lane family in Edina painted a mural in front of their house. The ‘Thank U’ sign is in support of essential workers. It started off as chalk then became paint — now the mural is a yard sign. … Now, they’re selling these yard signs, and $10 from every purchase is going to help food insecurity.

KSTP-TV’s Richard Reeve writes: “A new drug is being called a ‘ray of hope’ in treating COVID-19. Now, the anti-viral drug remdesivir is the focus of two clinical trials in Minnesota. ‘This is a medicine that directly attacks the virus,’ said Jason Baker, Hennepin Healthcare’s infectious disease director. ‘Rendesivir is one of the only direct anti-viral medicines that’s being studied in the context of COVID-19.’ Doctors at the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute hope to enroll about 1,000 patients now hospitalized with moderate or severe COVID-19.”

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Also from the AP: “Gun advocates say Minnesotans bought thousands of self-defense firearms last month in response to potential civil unrest that could be spurred by the global coronavirus pandemic. The FBI conducted background checks on 96,654 transactions in Minnesota last month, the most ever in the state for a single month.”

The Pioneer Press’ Deanna Weniger writes: “River cruise line Viking will launch a new vessel Aug. 2022 that will sail the Mississippi River between New Orleans and St. Paul. … The vessel, christened the Viking Mississippi, is the company’s first custom vessel. Bookings to the general pubic open Wednesday.”