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More Twin Cities school districts move to distance learning

Plus: unprecedented demand at free COVID-19 testing sites in the Twin Cities; DEED’s Hamse Warfa to become senior advisor to the U.S. State Department; more snow on the way; and more.

Empty classroom desks
Photo by Rubén Rodriguez on Unsplash

Tim Harlow and Anthony Lonetree report for the Star Tribune:  “More Twin Cities metro-area schools are moving to distance learning after outbreaks of COVID-19 spurred high numbers of student absences and staffing shortages. St. Paul Public Schools also posted on its website a survey for parents and staff members that could lead to as many as five digital learning days being carved out later this year, while its teachers union pushed for more immediate changes in pandemic protocols. Districts opting to shift from in-person to virtual learning included Prior Lake-Savage, Osseo, Farmington and Richfield — with Richfield students set to go remote on Wednesday.”

Also in the Star Tribune, Jeremy Olson says, “Appointments for COVID-19 tests are unavailable at several free sites in the Twin Cities amid growing concern over the omicron surge of the pandemic. Vault Health is experiencing unprecedented demand at its free state testing sites at the same time workers’ coronavirus infections are hurting its capacity to collect and process tests. Spokeswoman Kate Brickman said people with at-home tests can help by using them first, ahead of the expiration date, rather than saving them and coming to test sites.”

The Pioneer Press also reports: “Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has tested positive for COVID-19. Simon said in an emailed statement that he took a PCR test over the weekend and received the result Tuesday evening. He added that he has been self-quarantined “in an abundance of caution” since his test on Saturday. … Simon is just the latest state official to test positive for the coronavirus. Attorney General Keith Ellison was diagnosed on Jan. 5 and Gov. Tim Walz in late December. Both said they had only mild symptoms, thanks to being vaccinated.”

Says Paul Huttner for MPR, “We’re still on track for significant snow across much of Minnesota Friday. But Tuesday’s forecast models have shifted the storm track significantly southwest. That would place the heaviest snow totals across southwestern Minnesota, with the Twin Cities riding the eastern edge of plowable snowfall. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System model is typical of multiple forecast model solutions that now favor the heaviest snows across western and southwestern Minnesota.”

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KSTP-TV’s Josh Skluzacek reports: “A Hennepin County judge has reaffirmed his decision to allow livestreamed coverage of the joint trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death. Judge Peter Cahill on Tuesday denied a motion by attorneys for Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng to reconsider audio and video coverage of the trial. … Last week, the former officers’ attorneys asked the court to postpone the state trial, which is set to begin in March, because their federal trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 20 and it’s unclear how long that will last. Cahill hasn’t ruled on that request, yet.”

WCCO-TV’s David Schuman reports: “President Joe Biden is calling one of Minnesota’s top public servants to the nation’s capital. Hamse Warfa, the highest-ranking Somali American in Minnesota’s executive branch, has been appointed a senior adviser to the U.S. State Department, advancing Biden’s democracy agenda. ‘This is a calling and I’m grateful I have another chance to serve our country,’ Warfa said. ‘I couldn’t say no in this critical moment of our country.’ Warfa will be leaving his position as a deputy commissioner in Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development.”

Also in the Star Tribune, Evan Ramstad writes, “Trustees of the Otto Bremer Trust will keep trying to sell Bremer Financial Corp., Minnesota’s fourth-largest bank, whether or not it makes financial sense, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office said in a post-trial summary of its effort to remove them. The trustees said in their own summary of October’s trial that they have always managed conflicts of interest ‘with appropriate precision’ and should be allowed to keep their jobs atop a foundation that annually distributes tens of millions of dollars across the Midwest. The filings, which were made Monday evening and available publicly Tuesday, summarized a conflict that began in 2019 between the St. Paul-based Bremer businesses — and will soon lie in the hands of Ramsey County District Judge Robert Awsumb. Lawyers are scheduled to make final arguments before Awsumb on Jan. 31.”

Jamey Malcomb writes for the Forum News Service: “Two-time John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon winner Ryan Redington was still shaken Monday after a Saturday evening hit-and-run incident with a snowmobile left two of his dogs injured in northwestern Wisconsin. Redington, the 2020 and 2018 race winner from Knik, Alaska, was training on the multiuse Tri-County Corridor Trail in Bayfield County when he saw a snowmobile speeding toward him. The snowmobile veered to its left, causing Redington to tip his sled off the trail. Two dogs nearest to the sled were hit.

For The Hill Chloe Folmar reports, “Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate have introduced a bill that would require employers in the state to allow proof of a previous COVID-19 infection as an alternative to vaccination and testing. The bill is likely to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, according to a report in the the Wisconsin State Journal, but it highlights a new front in the battle over vaccine mandates at the heart of the nation’s COVID-19 politics.  Republicans have challenged Biden administration vaccine rules for businesses and health care workers in court, threatening their long-term validity.”