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Walz to announce new restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms, sports and social gatherings

Plus: Mayo Clinic says more than 900 staffers have contracted COVID-19 in the past two weeks; Mayor Melvin Carter announces commission to “re-envision emergency response” in St. Paul; Hennepin County approves $8 million to help bar and restaurant owners;  and more.

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

MPR News reports: “Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota’s latest round of COVID-19 restrictions is on the way. Gov. Tim Walz is scheduled to lay out his plan for countering an alarming spike in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths with an address at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Without sharing specifics, the governor’s spokesperson said the new guidance will address bars, restaurants, fitness centers, gyms, youth sports and social gatherings — all sources of COVID-19 transmission that state health officials have identified. ‘The virus cares about none of those things we like to do, and it will simply bring death and destruction, overwhelming our health care system,’ he said. Minnesota’s COVID-19 numbers — its daily and cumulative tallies of infections, testing, hospitalization and death — are bad and getting worse.”

The Forum News Service’s Paul John Scott reports: “Over 900 Mayo Clinic staff have contracted COVID-19 in the past two weeks, according to a Tuesday briefing by Dr. Amy Williams, dean of clinical practice. Williams said that 93 percent of staff who have contracted the virus did so in the community, and that the majority of those who contracted the virus at work did so while eating in a break room with a mask off. ‘It shows you how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the Midwest,’ said Willams, during an afternoon press call. ‘Our staff are being infected mostly due to community spread, and this impacts our ability to care for patients. We need everyone in the communities we serve to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19.’”

Mara H. Gottfried writes in the Pioneer Press: About 40 people will serve on a St. Paul community-first public safety commission to “re-envision emergency response,” Mayor Melvin Carter announced Tuesday. The commission will study non-police responses to some 911 calls, as well as considering creating a city-staffed office to coordinate the work of St. Paul’s commuity-first public safety plan. They’re to provide recommendations to Carter and the City Council in May. St. Paul has seen an increase in gun violence compared to 2019, which also was a time of higher-than-typical gun crimes in the city.”

The Star Tribune’s Dave Chanen reports, “To ease the financial impact of new state COVID-19 business restrictions, Hennepin County commissioners approved $8 million Tuesday to help struggling restaurant and bar owners. The funding was expected to assist between 600 and 800 businesses and potentially secure or return the jobs of thousands of employees. … Eligible businesses must be locally owned and operated, have fewer than 100 employees and collect less than $6 million in annual revenue. The maximum grant will be $15,000.”

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For KSTP-TV Rebecca Omastiak reports, “More than 200 members of the Minnesota National Guard have been activated this week to help with the COVID-19 response throughout the state. In its latest update, the Minnesota National Guard reports that number is expected to increase to over 400 by the end of this week. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced that a few longer-term COVID-19 testing sites will open at National Guard armories and will be staffed by a combination of local public health staff and members of the Minnesota National Guard.”

MPR’s Riham Feshir writes, “From his travel ban to his efforts to extinguish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, President Donald Trump’s immigration policies have made it challenging for immigrants living in the country to regularize their status and for others to reunite with family from overseas.  Now many immigrants in Minnesota are cautiously optimistic about their future, hoping an administration under Joe Biden will quickly roll back several regulations that have significantly limited the number of refugees into the country, curtailed work visas and hampered family reunification over the past four years.”

Says Mary Papenfuss at The Huffington Post, “North Dakota had the highest COVID-19 mortality rate of any other state or even any other country in the world last week, according to a shocking analysis by the Federation of American Scientists. South Dakota ranked third-worst in the world. Both states also have the lowest rates of face mask use in the nation. The rates are what health experts would expect in a war-torn nation — but not in the U.S., the scientists said.”

At The Daily Beast, Maxwell Tani writes, “If you’ve recently tuned in to CNN or MSNBC you may have noticed a familiar face has returned to political punditry: Al Franken. Over the past several months, the former Minnesota senator—whose legislative career ended in 2018 over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct—has been quietly growing his media presence, becoming a more common sight on cable news, in op-ed pages, and on the radio. … On his satellite radio show, Franken has focused on right-wing media, a topic that animated much of his pre-Senate writing and broadcasting career… But Franken believes he now has new insights that he didn’t possess the first time he was in the hosting chair, and that such expertise allows him to inject more serious policy discussions into his interviews.”

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