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More than 4,800 Minnesota businesses could be affected by new vaccine mandate

Plus: Ramsey County judge skeptical of call for school mask mandates; Bloomington moves forward on plans to create $260 million water park; Avett Brothers bow out of Basilica Block Party; and more.

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Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Hannah Flood reports for FOX 9: “President Joe Biden announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates as part of his latest response plan, but Minnesota business owners are still waiting for more guidance as the dust settles. Part of this mandate states all employers with more than 100 workers must require vaccinations or testing for the virus weekly. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, there are more than 4,800 businesses and 1.4 million employees that could be impacted by this. … Meanwhile, many of businesses are eager to hear details on the plan. President and CEO of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Doug Loon says he and thousands of businesses in Minnesota are waiting for details on the president’s vaccine mandate during a time when they’re already considering the health of their workplace.”

At MPR, Brian Bakst reports: “A lawsuit seeking required masking in schools statewide got a skeptical response Thursday from a judge who said he was unsure he had the authority to order that and that such a move would open the door to much more. A group calling itself Parents Advocating Safe Schools (PASS) sued Gov. Tim Walz and the state in an attempt to force a new peacetime emergency order and a school mask mandate. A hearing before Ramsey County District Court Judge Thomas Gilligan and a packed virtual gallery centered around arguments over who has the power to act versus the notion that lack of COVID-19 mitigations could deny some children their constitutional right to an adequate education.”

A Star Tribune story by Nicole Norfleet says: “Bloomington city officials are moving ahead with steps to create a $260 million water park at the Mall of America after the coronavirus pandemic put the project on hold. At a Wednesday night joint meeting of the City Council and Port Authority, city officials voted to update the feasibility study of a previously talked about nonprofit model for financing and completing the water park. They also gave city staff authority to research another type of funding method that would combine private financing with tax increment financing (TIF). … The water park is designed to be the largest indoor pool structure in North America and have the longest indoor beach.”

In the Pioneer Press, Frederick Melo writes: “For years, St. Paul officials have laid out a general vision for a 1.5-mile pedestrian promenade that would meander along the downtown river bluff, shadowing Kellogg Boulevard between Eagle and Sibley streets. The Great River Passage Conservancy on Thursday announced an important milestone in making that effort a reality. Working with the city, the conservancy has hired a New York-based urban design and landscape architecture firm to craft St. Paul’s future river balcony on paper, from construction phasing to funding to programming. James Corner Field Operations is the same firm that designed the High Line, a public park built above New York City on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side.”

Also from WCCO-TV: “The Avett Brothers are bowing out of their upcoming performance at the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis due to ‘a COVID-19 exposure.’ Event organizers announced Thursday that the band’s set, scheduled for this Saturday at 9 p.m., is canceled. ‘While we are disappointed, we are confident that this decision is necessary in order to ensure the health and safety of the community,’ organizers said.”

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A FOX 9 story says: Longtime Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder resigned from his position Wednesday. Elder served in the role for about eight years, providing communications for the department on from crime reports to large scale events such as Super Bowl LII. Elder, whose official title was director of police information, came under fire last year for calling George Floyd’s murder a ‘medical incident’ in his initial statement to the media. In a press release, he said Floyd ‘appeared to be suffering medical distress’ after he resisted arrest and was handcuffed. However, a video taken by a bystander showed former officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he cried out that he could not breathe while two other officers helped to hold him down.… The police department said Elder is taking a leadership role in a neighboring law enforcement agency, but did not identify which one.”

This from Paul Huttner at MPR, “It’s been another week of positive news for parts of Minnesota in this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report. Thursday’s update shows a 1-class drought category improvement in southwest Minnesota compared to last week. Parts of southwest Minnesota and southeast Minnesota are now drought-free. But most of central and northern Minnesota remain in severe to extreme drought. There is also a wedge of exceptional drought that persists from near International Falls through Red Lake to the northeast of Fargo.”

At KARE-TV, Bill Strande reports, “Officials with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health say horses in two Minnesota counties were found to have two different equine diseases. The diseases were confirmed after the horses had to be euthanized because of their deteriorating health conditions. ‘An Itasca County mare was confirmed to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), which is spread to horses by mosquitoes,’ according to a news release from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Another mare, which is a female horse more than four years old, tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1). That horse was in Washington County.”

Tim Pugmire writes for MPR: “Gwen Nell Westerman, a professor in the English Department at Minnesota State University, Mankato, was named Minnesota’s poet laureate Thursday by Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.  Westerman is the first Native American to be Minnesota’s poet laureate. She has won two Minnesota Book Awards for her work about Dakota people, ‘Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota.’ Her first poetry book “Follow the Blackbirds” was written in English and Dakota, and her poems and essays have been widely published.”

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