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Omicron surge expected to slow mail delivery, garbage collection in Minnesota

Plus: Andrea Jenkins elected Minneapolis City Council president; public officials from across the Twin Cities meet to discuss how to address violent crime; MPR hires former KARE 11 meteorologist Sven Sundgaard; and more.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Matt McKinney writes in the Star Tribune: “As a crushing wave of omicron infections surges across Minnesota, mail carriers and garbage haulers say they’re struggling to keep things going. Some mail won’t go out on time, a union official said, and a handful of garbage routes will see delays, according to a private hauler. The delays are brought on by a record-setting surge of COVID-19 cases connected with the highly contagious omicron variant.”

WCCO-TV says, “The Minneapolis City Council has a new president: Andrea Jenkins. The Ward 8 council member was elected to the post Monday after city leaders were inaugurated into office. The position was left open by former president Lisa Bender, who decided not to run in last November’s election. Jenkins previously served as the council’s vice president. Jenkins, who represents a central area of south Minneapolis, made history in 2017 when she became the first Black openly-transgender woman elected to office in the United States. She was re-elected last year in a landslide.”

Kristi Marohn writes for MPR: “A longtime employee of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has filed a whistleblower lawsuit, claiming he faced retaliation for raising concerns about how the agency handles petroleum leak sites. Mark Toso resigned in June after nearly 30 years at the MPCA, the last decade as a hydrologist in the petroleum remediation program. The program is responsible for investigating, evaluating and removing risks from petroleum releases from storage tanks. … In November, Toso sued the MPCA in Ramsey County District Court, alleging that the agency penalized him for voicing concerns that the program was failing to protect groundwater and endangering the public.

Also in the Star Tribune, Shannon Prather and Kim Hyatt report: “Mayors, police chiefs and prosecutors across the Twin Cities are vowing to band together to slow a surge in violent crime that is roiling the region, but exactly how to do that remains unclear. The group convened Monday to zero in on a recent rise in vehicle thefts and violent carjackings dozens of officials said requires better collaboration between cities and suburbs, as well as police and prosecutors. … Yet friction soon emerged among the dozens of officials who packed a conference room in Eden Prairie. Some chiefs said that repeat offenders were the biggest problem, while prosecutors countered that they can only press charges in cases with sufficient evidence.”

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At KARE-TV, Jack Molmud reports, “Thousands of University of Minnesota Twin Cities students return to in-person learning on the West Bank on Tuesday, Jan. 18. Students and faculty will meet back in the classroom as the omicron variant of COVID-19 taking over 90% of current cases in the state of Minnesota. … With Minnesota’s seven-day COVID positivity average reaching it’s third-highest rate in the history of the pandemic, cases recorded on U of M’s campus are increasing as well, according to its latest dashboard data.”

The AP reports: “Fire crews are fighting a large fire at a condemned hotel in Duluth Monday in subzero conditions. “Duluth fire officials say the roof of the Esmond Building, formerly the old Seaway Hotel, in the Lincoln Park Craft District has collapsed and all firefighters have been pulled out of the building Monday. Some residents and workers in adjacent buildings, including tenants in apartments above Curly’s Bar, have been evacuated as a precaution. The building, owned by the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority, was condemned and slated for demolition to make way for a new apartment building after another building was constructed to house the hotel’s former residents.”

Dave Orrick writes in the Pioneer Press: “The Minnesota House is poised to adopt a vaccinate-or-test-weekly coronavirus requirement for all employees and interns, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL- Brooklyn Park, announced Monday. The proposed rules — which would exempt House members themselves — mirror President Joe Biden’s requirements for private employers with 100 or more employers. That federal mandate, made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has been challenged and was heard Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court. which has yet to rule on its legality. The court declined to issue a stay of OSHA’s rule, so it remains in effect, with a Feb. 9 deadline looming — the date OSHA has said they will begin to enforce the testing requirement.”

This from William Bornhoft at Patch, “Minnesota Public Radio announced Monday the hiring of local meteorologist Sven Sundgaard. Sundgaard will write for the MPR News ‘Updraft’ weather blog and be on air with Cathy Wurzer for ‘Morning Edition’. Sundgaard previously worked for local NBC affiliate KARE 11 from 2006 until he was fired in 2020 over what the news station called ‘continued violations of KARE 11’s news and ethics and other policies.’” Sundgaard disputed those claims.”

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