Christopher Magan / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — More labs in Minnesota and across the nation are testing for COVID-19, but it’s still tough to get a test for the deadly coronavirus unless you’re critically ill. That needs to change if life is ever going to return to some semblance of normal. “There isn’t any way, soon after this, if we don’t have a vaccine or therapeutics, without massive testing, that you are going to see the large gatherings again,” Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged this week. Hopefully, the shortages that are limiting screening now can be remedied.
Most of the COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and Wisconsin are tied to travel, and public health officials are urging residents to reconsider any foreign and domestic trips. To be clear, it’s not an outright warning against all travel. But health officials say residents should avoid going to places where the virus is spreading in the community. California, New York and Washington state are the hardest hit in the U.S.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s local public health departments are the first line of defense against COVID-19 and many are understaffed and lacking funding to deal with widespread coronavirus infections. “We certainly could use some more help,” Gina Adasiewicz, deputy public health director for Dakota County, said Friday after a group of local health officials met to discuss virus preparations with U.S. Rep. Angie Craig.
ST. PAUL — A fifth Minnesotan has tested negative for the COVID-19 as state health officials announced they now can screen for the coronavirus locally. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state Department of Health laboratories worked over the weekend to validate test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previous kits from the CDC had returned inaccurate results, but Malcolm said she was confident in the new tests. “We have the benefit in Minnesota of a strong health care system that works on these issues all the time,” she said.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans like Amy, Bernie and Trump, the Twin Cities west metro has deep pockets and Iron Rangers are still giving money to Democrats. Those are the takeaways from a Pioneer Press analysis of about 97,000 of donations — worth more than $7 million — from Minnesotans to the field of presidential contenders. The Federal Election Commission filings cover individual donations over $200 through January, although some campaigns itemize smaller donations.
ST. PAUL — It is not uncommon to find drunks, drug users and vagrants sleeping or using Twin Cities light rail trains as a toilet — and not just after hours. That was what two train operators told a group of lawmakers Wednesday, Feb. 5, saying they often fear for their safety and are disgusted by the behavior they see. One morning, commuters boarded a train to see a man passed out with his penis in his hand, said Honey Darling, a light rail operator.
ST. PAUL -- Marvlyne “Unique” Tripp knows Minnesota’s welfare-to-work program can be a lifeline — it helped her during a rough patch to go back to school and better her career prospects. “It was something I had to lean on. It was a point in time I was between a rock and a hard place,” said Tripp, a St. Paul resident. For the first time in 34 years, the maximum monthly grant in the Minnesota Family Investment Program, or MFIP, the state’s version of welfare, increases by $100. A family of three will see their monthly cash assistance increase from $532 to $632 a month.
ST. PAUL -- An effort by the Trump administration to “restore the dignity of work” means tens of thousands of Minnesotans could see cuts or a total loss of federal food-stamp benefits. In 2019, about 376,000 Minnesotans received help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, that’s commonly referred to as food stamps. It cost about $516 million for Minnesota to administer that aid and nearly all the money came from the federal government.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota will get a piece of the assets of a bankrupt drug maker involved in the national opioid addiction crisis. Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Friday that a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware has approved a multi-state plan to liquidate the assets of Insys Therapeutics Inc. The company is one of two facing a lawsuit from Minnesota and other states for its role in misleading the public about the dangers of opioid painkillers.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s legislative watchdog says the state Department of Health is not doing enough to oversee the medical cannabis program. An audit of the health department’s controls and compliance found seven ways the program that provides marijuana to patients for certain health conditions was not being correctly monitored. The audit examined the program’s operations from July 2016 to December 2018. Minnesota lawmakers approved the medical pot program in 2014 and it now has about 17,000 patients. Last year, the state spent about $1.6 million administrating it.