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More Minnesota school districts expected to move to distance learning as COVID-19 cases surge

Plus: nearly half of all St. Louis County residents say they know someone who has COVID-19 symptoms; Mayo health system says its northwest Wisconsin hospitals are at capacity; Walz takes shot at South Dakota governor; and more.

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MPR’s Elizabeth Shockman reports: “Duluth, Bloomington and Hopkins public schools have announced plans to transition their students to distance learning as COVID-19 case rates rise across Minnesota. According to Kirk Shneidawind, executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association, those districts will likely be joined by many others in coming days and weeks. ‘Our superintendents are watching their numbers and their county numbers are going off the chart,’ Shneidawind said. ‘And with the holidays coming up, with the risk of numbers going up even more this time and with the flu season, our administrators are preparing in the event that they would have to move everybody to distance learning.’”

For the Star Tribune, Brooks Johnson and Katie Galioto say, “The pandemic has been winning battle after battle Up North lately as efforts to contain the virus fall short. Duluth schools are going all-virtual after a hybrid start. Itasca County is giving up on contact tracing. Nearly half of all St. Louis County residents say they know someone who has COVID-19, and less than a dozen critical care hospital beds remain available in all of northeastern Minnesota. … In St. Louis County, the state’s largest county by area, community spread of the virus has grown steadily for weeks. About one-fifth of the county’s 4,717 COVID-19 cases reported since March have been added in the last week, and data shows community exposure is the single greatest driver of new infections.”

The Associated Press reports: “Mayo Clinic Health System says its hospitals in the northwest region of Wisconsin are full to capacity. System officials say 100% of their beds are full at hospitals in the region, which encompasses Barron, Bloomer, Eau Claire, Osseo and Menomonie. Eighty-three patients have COVID-19, WQOW-TV reported. ‘The public urgently needs to treat COVID-19 as the health emergency it is to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. We are pleading for everyone’s help to wear a mask and follow all public health guidelines to limit the spread of this disease,’ regional vice president Richard Helmers, regional administrator Jason Craig and chief nursing officer Pam White said in a joint statement.”

For the Sahan Journal, Becky Dernbach reports, “Ibrahim Mohamed first spoke at Shakopee City Hall during a mayoral diversity summit in 2012. Standing at the podium, he told the audience about the city’s Somali community. He felt empowered when he saw how people listened to him and applauded his words. Out of that summit, Mohamed co-founded the Shakopee Diversity Alliance. The group’s multicultural leadership decided their first activity should be an international festival. … Eight years later, he’s bringing that diversity to the Shakopee school board. Mohamed, an immigrant from Somalia, will become the seven-person school board’s first representative of color.”

For the Pioneer Press, Chloe Chumbler writes: “Minnesota’s efforts to tackle homelessness among veterans hit a milestone on Wednesday — Veterans Day. Gov. Tim Walz announced that five suburban metro counties, part of the Suburban Metro Area Continuum of Care, were granted a federal designation for ending veteran homelessness at a ceremony Wednesday. They are Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington counties.”

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In the Star Tribune, Libor Jany writes: “By day, 38th and Chicago has become a pilgrimage site for those seeking to protest the police killing of George Floyd and other racial injustices. But when the sun went down, locals say, it was a different story, with gunfire ringing through the night and police sometimes nowhere to be found. Questions began to surface. … A case making its way through federal court might help provide some answers. The defendant, David C. Jensen, was previously indicted on charges of lying about smoking marijuana on his application to buy a gun, but new court filings show authorities suspect him of selling guns out of the trunk of his car, just as gun violence began to escalate near the Floyd memorial site.

For KARE-TV, Kent Erdahl says, “As Minnesota broke yet another daily and weekly record for COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, funeral directors in the state hope that people focus on the people behind the stats. ‘We sit with those families that COVID has touched and has taken their loved one away,’ said Kelly Kelly, a mortician in Rochester and president of the Minnesota Funeral Director’s Association. ‘That person was a very intricate part of that family.’ Kelly says, instead of trying to comprehend a record 56 COVID-19 deaths in one day, it’s more important to think about how families that have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 might need more help navigating layers of isolation and grief.”

Says Tim Harlow for the Star Tribune, “Prosecutors handling the Lois Riess murder cases have agreed to have her serve the first of her life sentences in a Minnesota prison, making it highly unlikely she will do any time in Florida. Riess shot and killed her husband, David, in 2018 in the couple’s home in Blooming Prairie, Minn. She then fled to Florida where she befriended a woman with a similar appearance, killed her and stole her identity. Riess pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in her husband’s death in August in Dodge County District Court, which cleared the way for her to serve her life sentences with no opportunity for parole at the women’s prison in Shakopee. Prosecutors in Florida had sought the death penalty but withdrew that possibility and accepted a plea for a life sentence in 2019. They also agreed to let Riess serve sentences concurrently in her home state.”

The AP’s Steve Karnowski writes: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he wishes the neighboring Dakotas would take more aggressive steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus, singling out South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem for criticism. Walz made the comments Tuesday during a news conference in St. Paul where he announced new restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings in Minnesota. He lamented that Minnesota is catching up with the Dakotas, which lead the country in new cases per capita. The Democratic governor said he’s not blaming neighboring states for that, but he said this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was “absolutely unnecessary,’ and that data shows it helped spread the virus beyond that state. Singling out Noem, who is a Republican, he said he wishes the state would have canceled the rally and imposed a statewide mask mandate, as Minnesota has.”

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