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Rising COVID-19 case numbers may force school closures in 19 Minnesota counties

Plus: ACLU of Minnesota sues state over lack of COVID precautions; Uptown Apple Store calls it quits; smoke from Colorado wildfires affects skies in Minnesota; and more.

Empty classroom desks
Photo by Rubén Rodriguez on Unsplash

Says Josh Verges for the Pioneer Press: Nineteen Minnesota counties may have to close their K-12 schools for the foreseeable future because of rising coronavirus cases. That’s the number of counties where new cases over a recent two-week period have exceeded 50 per 10,000 residents, according to a weekly health report published Thursday. That number was nine in last week’s report. The case report is intended as a starting point for school officials deciding whether to offer in-person instruction. In some cases, such as when outbreaks are contained to a prison, schools can operate under a less restrictive model than the county numbers suggest.”

An AP story says, “The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is suing the state, alleging prison officials have not taken adequate precautions to protect inmates from COVID-19. The ACLU-MN filed a petition Thursday asking a court to force the state to keep people in custody safe. The Department of Corrections said it was reviewing the lawsuit.”

Says Tom Olsen for the Duluth News Tribune, “Northland officials on Thursday said they have dismantled a gang-affiliated drug trafficking organization in what is believed to be the largest such bust in the history of the region. Some 50 people have been charged with trafficking controlled substances throughout the Upper Midwest after an investigation that started late last year. As of Tuesday, 35 suspects had been arrested, five were already in custody and another 10 were still being sought on warrants.

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A WCCO-TV story says, “The Apple Store in Uptown is the latest shop to call it quits in the south Minneapolis shopping center that’s been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. … Other restaurants and stores to leave the area in recent months include Fig & Faro, MAC Cosmetics, and Sushi Tango. Earlier this week, the owners of the shopping center formerly known as Calhoun Square say they plan to re-brand and rebuild it as Seven Points. Their vision for the space will include an outdoor plaza, a market, and mixed-use office and residential space.”

In the Star Tribune, Jean Hopfensperger says, “Brian McNeill says he’s spent 35 years working to change the Catholic Church’s ‘antiquated sexual theology.’ The president of Dignity Twin Cities called Pope Francis’ statement approving same-sex civil unions ‘the most positive statement from a pope on LGBTQ issues I’ve seen.’ … Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said the pope’s remarks show an ‘openness to civil unions as a kind of middle way that would allow persons of the same sex in long-term relationships to have legal benefits without a civil redefinition of marriage itself.’”

WCCO-TV reports: “A former Chisago County Sheriff has pleaded guilty to harassment and misconduct of a public officer after he was accused of sexually harassed a female employee. …  Duncan was charged later that year for acts that investigators say happened in October and November 2017. Documents obtained by WCCO-TV show Duncan allegedly told a female employee that fall that he received a series of blackmail letters from an anonymous third party, who had the alias ‘Control Freak.’ The letters required him and a female employee to both go to a training together in Bemidji, as well as stay overnight in a hotel together, among other things. One of the letters said that something may happen to the both of their families if the instructions were not followed.”

MPR’s Paul Huttner writes, “They say all weather is local. But sometimes our weather brings in elements from far away places. Smoke from Colorado wildfires turned Minnesota’s sky and snow orange and yellow Thursday. The smoke comes from an elevated smoke plume blown by mid-level winds from Colorado across southern Minnesota.”

Also in the Star Tribune, this from Mike Hughlett, “The notion of a gold rush in northern Minnesota has taken a big hit with the exit of one of the world’s largest gold mining companies. AngloGold Ashanti had scooped up 271 state precious-metal mining leases in recent years, encompassing 105,900 acres. But the company terminated them at the end of last year, quietly ending a significant exploration project here to focus on a more promising venture in Nevada.”

For Fox News, Audrey Conklin writes, “President Trump says he’s confident of winning Minnesota, despite polls that show him trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the battleground state, which has voted blue for 47 years. The president attributes his optimism to voters who blame Democratic leadership for failing to quell sometimes-violent protests after the death of George Floyd in late May and crave the law and order Trump has promised if elected to a second term.”

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