Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Epidemiologists expect COVID-19 waves as Minnesota businesses reopen

Plus: auto insurers expected to issue rebates soon; Hennepin County implements “PTO debt” plan amid coronavirus; Minnesota Senate passes Tobacco21 bill, sending it to Walz; and more.

A paramedic taking a patient from an ambulance to an emergency arrival area at Elmhurst Hospital in the Queens borough of New York City on Monday.
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Riding the waves. The Star Tribune’s Joe Carlson and Glenn Howatt report: “Epidemiologists broadly agree that reopening ‘nonessential’ businesses and public spaces will lead to increased transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, though the uptick won’t be visible immediately. … It’s already happening in some states that reopened nonessential businesses, like Alabama, South Dakota and Texas, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has said. Minnesota is gradually allowing nonessential businesses and public spaces to reopen, based on judgments about how well each kind of setting can prevent transmission and monitor for new cases. … But because some increased transmission is inevitable when economies reopen, the big question is whether the increase will be manageable, or if it will lead to soaring rates of new transmissions that trigger a ‘second wave’ and force governments to reimpose mitigation strategies.”

A little help from your friends in the insurance industry. Also in the Star Tribune, John Ewoldt writes: “Stay-at-home orders have meant Americans are driving less — and many insurers are giving policyholders a break that should appear soon in the mail or on their account. … The discounts, announced by some insurance companies in early April, range from 10% to 30%. … Most insurance companies are paying the April premium rebate in May and the May rebate in June. Depending on how customers pay their premiums, most will get a credit but some will receive a check.”

Nice to see a little debt innovation. At the American Prospect, Sarah Jaffe reports: “Trying to plan for worst-case scenarios like catching the virus, [Hennepin County employee Maria] Ammerman started to look into an additional possibility: negative PTO. When the Hennepin County Board declared a coronavirus emergency, it expanded the possibility for workers to take more paid time off than they’ve accrued, and then work it back off through something that many people refer to as ‘PTO debt.’ It’s a policy that is spreading in both the public and the private sector, touted by its proponents as a way to help people through an unexpected crisis, in a country that provides little support for working people with any sort of health care needs. But its critics liken it to indentured servitude.”

Tobacco 21 headed for Walz’s signature. For the Forum News Service, Sarah Mearhoff writes: “A bill raising the age to purchase tobacco products, including vaping and e-cigarette products popular with young people, is on its way to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk. … The Minnesota state Senate on Wednesday passed the bill, often dubbed ‘Tobacco 21,’ by a 43-21 vote. The House had already passed it on Saturday, making the bill’s next stop the desk of Walz, who has already pledged to sign it. … The bill brings Minnesota into compliance with the federal government’s own Tobacco 21 law, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December after administration officials called youth e-cigarette use an ‘epidemic.’”

Article continues after advertisement

In other news…

Sen. Tina Smith on the news:Sen. Tina Smith: Dr. Fauci reminded us we can’t wish pandemic away” [MSNBC]

And her predecessor in office shows up briefly in this:The “We’re All In This Together” Video” [YouTube]

Good news:Hagedorn says he is responding well to cancer treatment” [New Ulm Journal]

Proposal:Make Minneapolis and St. Paul Parkway Closures Permanent” []

FYI:3rd Avenue bridge redo in Minneapolis begins with weekend closure” [Star Tribune]

Will be interesting to see how this pans out:Minnesota preview? Wisconsin bars immediately packed” [City Pages]