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Minnesota schools brace for omicron wave as students return to class

Plus: U of M asks Legislature for $936 million; long lines at state-run COVID testing sites; more snow on the way for much of Minnesota; and more.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

For MPR, Elizabeth Shockman reports: “As students return to classrooms on Monday, school leaders across Minnesota are readying themselves for what may be a spike in virus spread. ‘What I’ve heard from superintendents is that they are nervous about omicron,’ said Bob Indihar, the executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association. … [Bloomington] Community relations executive director Rick Kaufman said the district has seen big rises in the number of 5- to 12-year-old students getting vaccinated. Still, after meetings with state and local public health officials, he worries whether it will be enough to blunt an omicron surge.”

In the Pioneer Press, Josh Verges writes: “The University of Minnesota is asking for a big share of the state’s $7.7 billion biennial budget surplus to boost campus safety and student financial aid and to pay for a wide range of facility repairs and academic and research initiatives. The Board of Regents this month approved the $936 million supplemental budget request — far more than the $274 million the board sought in October, before the state announced it was flush with cash. … Most of the requested money, $474 million, would pay for various construction projects and building maintenance.”

In the Star Tribune, Kim Hyatt reports: “The neighborhood watch is going digital in the suburbs as four police departments across the metro area look to partner with homeowners in a voluntary at-home surveillance camera database. Edina is the latest police department to implement the SafeCam program in the wake of an attempted parking lot carjacking in the heart of the city. … SafeCam adds a new layer of coding to a city’s existing geographic information system (GIS). It’s essentially a map of registered home security cameras and a correlating database of contact information.”

Ben Henry reports for KSTP-TV: “It was clear that COVID-19 was top of mind for many in the metro as people waited in long lines to get tested on Sunday. The state-run COVID-19 testing facility in Brooklyn Park had a steady line for most of the day, with a mass of people waiting in the cold. At one point, the facility stopped honoring appointments and moved to walk-in-only testing.”

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This from Declan Desmond at Bring Me The News, “Just a week after it was forced to cancel its domestic flights due to a ‘temporary third-party network system outage’. Sun Country Airlines is now dealing with serious baggage delays at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP). On Sunday morning, reports emerged on social media that passengers were stuck at the airport waiting for their luggage, with one claiming they’d had to wait 13 hours ‘in the airport/on the plane for a 3 hr flight.’”

In the Pioneer Press, Kristi Belcamino writes: “St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter will be sworn in for his second term during a filmed ceremony Monday at Como Dockside Pavilion. The swearing-in will be livestreamed on the city of St. Paul’s Facebook page beginning at noon. Carter will give an inaugural address immediately after being sworn in. The virtual oath of office ceremony is a public event.”

A WCCO-TV story says, “On Monday, the Twin Cities will jump to a high of 26 degrees. Up north, most spots will get into the high teens, while southern Minnesota will climb above 30. Tuesday will be even warmer. Then, a 24-hour period of light snow and snow showers will kick off that evening. Most areas should see between 2 and 5 inches, according to WCCO Meteorologist Mike Augustyniak. Temperatures will plunge again at the end of the week.”

ICYMI, MPR’s Kirsti Marohn reports: “Xcel Energy is asking state regulators for permission to change how it stores radioactive waste at its Prairie Island nuclear plant in Red Wing, Minn. The Minneapolis-based utility says it’s not seeking to store more spent nuclear fuel at the plant than the amount it was authorized in 2009. But Xcel wants flexibility to use a different type of storage cask as long as the design is approved by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

A Christopher Snowbeck story in the Star Tribune says, “Her emotions flared just a bit when Thera Witte described how she became the first person in the Twin Cities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. … One year later, more than 1 million Minnesotans remain unvaccinated as the much more transmissible omicron variant threatens to drive an unprecedented spike in cases. It’s left Minnesota’s vaccine pioneers — the health care workers that were the first to get immunized across the state — with a searing sense of uncertainty about what’s coming in the new year. ‘This time last year, if you would have said this is where we’d be, I’d say: ‘Not a chance.…’ said Witte, a nurse who works with COVID patients at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.”

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