The state Health Department is reporting 32 new deaths from COVID-19 and 1,292 new positive COVID-19 tests. So far, nearly 451,000 Minnesotans have tested positive. "Minnesota has now passed the sad threshold of 6,000 deaths since the start of this pandemic. We are not at a total of 6,011 who've lost their lives to COVID-19." State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. As of today, more than 6.2 million COVID-19 tests have been completed statewide. 203,839 Minnesotans have received one dose of the COVID vaccination and 41,984 have received both doses.
No tax increases -- income, sales or gas tax -- Senate Republicans are repeating as they roll out their top priorities for the legislative session. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says tax hikes are not necessary to plug an expected budget shortfall: "We can reduce spending -- it doesn't have to be much -- and we can use the Rainy Day Funds.... Between those two things we can easily balance the budget." Democrats, who control the Minnesota House, respond new investments are essential to jump-start a Minnesota economy that's hurting from COVID. They say upper-income groups haven't been paying their fair share. [...]
Decisions on putting students back into the classroom would be made solely by local school boards and community leaders, under one of Minnesota Senate Republicans' top-priority bills that would dial back Governor Tim Walz's COVID emergency powers. Rochester Senator Carla Nelson contends the current situation is serious: "Parents not being able to work because they don't have their children in school. We have a lost generation, some have said, of these young kids not learning to read." K-6 classrooms can currently re-open if certain safety measures are in place. The decision on in-person, distance, or hybrid learning in the upper grades [...]
No surprise that re-opening Minnesota businesses are among top priorities for state Senate Republicans as they officially unveil their agenda for the 2021 legislative session. Senator Andrew Mathews from Milaca says his bill allows businesses with safety plans to re-open with no restrictions: "Pinging back and forth that you've all been suffering from. You're open, you're closed. You're open, you're closed. Now you're open again, but Governor Walz still has the power to shut you back down." It's questionable that the Democrat-controlled Minnesota House would go along with such a restriction of the governor's emergency powers. They point to COVID [...]
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is updating its COVID-19 testing recommendations, focused primarily on young Minnesotans returning to schools, youth sports and extracurricular activities. "The bottom line is, that's a lot of new folks engaging with people they had had not previously been interacting with as a result we are updating our testing recommendations with a focus on those ages 12-25." Health Protection Bureau Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff says the new guidance comes in the wake of Governor Walz’s loosening of restrictions on certain activities and sectors of the economy.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has launched a new online survey for COVID-19 case investigation in an effort to more efficiently track coronavirus cases. With the new approach, when someone tests positive for COVID-19, MDH will send them a text message inviting them to participate in a survey. "By responding to the text with an email address, people who test positive for COVID-19 can complete the online survey without having to wait for a call from a public health worker." MDH's Kris Ehresmann says case investigation is the first step when someone tests positive to determine close contacts of someone [...]
A three-year trial program of new snow clearing tech for MN-Dot is in the middle of year two, and Maintenance Research Engineer Tom Peters says with each passing snow event they hope to gather more data about the performance of the new tools they are trying out. "In a nutshell, this is a good step to do numerical value assessments and see if we feel it is worthwhile or not." Peters says different technology is being employed in different parts of the state and will then be shuffled next winter to compare how the tools work in areas where needs differ. [...]
President Joe Biden says one of his top priorities is to unite the country. Biden said during his inauguration Wednesday that he would "fight as hard for those who did not support me, as for those who did." Republican Congressman Tom Emmer says: "The message was good, at least the words, from a unity standpoint, that would be great and that's what we're hopeful for, quite frankly." Emmer says, however, that Biden undoing some of former President Trump's signature initiatives through executive orders during his first hours in office is not a step in the right direction.
Minnesota's unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent last month, down from 4.5 percent in December. DEED(Department of Employment and Economic Development) Commissioner Steve Grove says the tenth of a percentage point tick down was due to people leaving the workforce, at least temporarily. Over the year in December, Minnesota shed 238,056 payroll jobs, down 8.0%, with private-sector jobs down 7.9% in December.
Kamala Harris is officially the 49th Vice President of the United States. Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says it's historic... "What you're seeing is that the diversity in the country is being reflected in the diversity of the officeholders, Kamala Harris being the first woman of color to be elected Vice president and I think you'll be seeing that diversity reflected continuing into the future in future elections." U-S Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office to Harris. The former senator from California would be the first to become commander-in-chief if Joe Biden is impeached, dies, [...]