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State looks to expand COVID testing options as demand soars

Plus: Minnesota blood supply at 10-year low; five Vikings starters placed on reserve/COVID-19 list; former funeral home in Blue Earth up for title of ‘Ugliest House in America’; and more.

Akyiaa Wilson receives a coronavirus disease test from technician Adrian Gutierrez at a mobile testing van in New York City in August.
Akyiaa Wilson receives a coronavirus disease test from technician Adrian Gutierrez at a mobile testing van in New York City in August.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

WCCO-TV’s Caroline Cummings reports: “State officials say they are looking at expanding test options in Minnesota as demand soars to record levels amid the spread of the infectious Omicron variant.  Minnesotans seeking tests at state test sites over the last two weeks during the holiday season were met with long lines. Drug stores look like deserts for COVID tests, with some even displaying signs notifying customers that they’re out of supply.”

Related, from FOX 9: “Officials with the Minnesota Department of Health say anyone looking to get a COVID-19 test on Monday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport must have an appointment. In a tweet, the state says it is switch is an effort to reduce crowding at the state-run testing sites at the airport. Anyone looking to get tested that didn’t have a scheduled appointment is asked to visit another testing site. The airport has been one of the busier sites for COVID-19 tests, particularly around the holidays as flyers looked to get tested before or after trips.”

At MPR, Tim Pugmire reports, “Health care professionals are urging Minnesotans to donate blood due to a supply shortage being felt across the state. Sen. Amy Klobuchar hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on the issue Monday with several blood bank officials. Blood donations have been down since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Klobuchar said hospitals rely on those community donations. ‘Right now, Minnesota’s blood bank donations are at a 10-year low,’ Klobuchar said. ‘Compounding that, we’re heading into a time of the year when blood donations tend to drop off anyway right after the holidays when it’s cold in our part of the country.’”

Says Jeff Wald for KMSP-TV, “The Minnesota Vikings had their already slim NFC Playoff hopes dashed in a 37-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field Sunday night. Less than 24 hours later, five starters have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Vikings announced Monday that safety Cam Bynum, offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland, Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill and linebacker Eric Kendricks were all placed on the COVID-19 list.”

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For the Pioneer Press, Mary Divine writes: “The latest casualty of supply-chain disruption? Milk cartons. At least that’s the case in the Stillwater Area School District, where parents on Monday were asked to send a ‘full, reusable water bottle to school with (their) child every day’ until the issue is resolved. ‘Due to ongoing supply-chain issues, cartons of milk and bottles of water are in short supply,’ school officials wrote in an email to parents. … District spokeswoman Carissa Keister said the district’s milk vendor informed district officials last month that it expected to be able to provide only about half of the district’s regular milk order because of the supply-chain issues.”

A Duluth News Tribune story by Dana Ferguson says, “President Joe Biden late last month signed into law a proposal greenlighting funding to help Minnesota’s bid to become host of a specialized World Expo in 2027. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Dean Phillips on Monday, Jan. 3, touted the expenditure in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that designated federal funds to get the United States a pavilion at the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, Japan. Establishing such a pavilion is a requirement for getting Minnesota approved to host an expo in 2027. The state has proposed, and the Biden administration has approved, a plan to have Minnesota host an exhibition centered around health and a healthy planet, which is set to focus on ‘the best of innovation and accomplishment in health and wellness, including highlighting the Upper Midwest’s important contributions in this field.’”

Says Nicole Mitchell for MPR, “By Tuesday afternoon, a strong storm starts moving snow across the state, with more persistent snow overnight Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Snow ends west by late Wednesday morning, and east by late afternoon, although blowing snow could be a concern even after new snow quits falling. Totals are forecast to be around 2 inches in the Twin Cities, with up to 4 inches in portions of northern Minnesota, and higher amounts near the North Shore.”

Babs Santos reports for FOX 9: “A former funeral home turned family home in southern Minnesota is up for the title of the ‘Ugliest House in America’ on an HGTV show. The home is owned by Noel and Renee Johnson in Blue Earth, Minnesota, a city just north of the Iowa border with a population just north of 3,000. The couple is working to breathe new life into the building. … ‘We bought it for $60,000,’ said Noel. ‘It will, when it’s all done, finished, be over 7,000 square feet on three-fourths of an acre in town. So we got a real good deal on the property.’”