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5 things to know today: Omicron variant, Federal medics, Walz visit, Bison World, Record donation

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

1. Minnesota man is state's first omicron variant COVID case, 2nd in the US

A Hennepin County man who traveled to New York City in November to attend an anime conference has Minnesota's first confirmed omicron variant case of COVID-19, state health officials announced Thursday, Dec. 2.

It's the second case of the omicron variant confirmed in the U.S., following a case reported in California on Wednesday, Dec. 1. The World Health Organization last week announced omicron was a "variant of concern," though scientists are still working to determine whether it poses a greater risk of transmission or severe illness. It also isn't clear if omicron has greater potential than previous variants to elude the vaccine.

The Minnesota Department of Health said the man with the state's first omicron case flew to New York to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center Nov. 19-21, started to experience symptoms of COVID-19 on Nov. 22 and tested positive two days later. His symptoms were mild and have since resolved, according to MDH.

Read more from Forum News Service's Alex Derosier and Dana Ferguson

2. A third federal medical team will deploy to Minnesota to help combat COVID-19

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Members of a Department of Defense medical response team on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, tested their facemasks before starting training at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

The federal government is set to deploy a third medical team to take pressure off of Minnesota hospitals, the Walz administration announced on Thursday, Dec. 2.

A team of 14 nurses, doctors and other medical staff from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will touch down on Friday, Dec. 3, to start a rotation at M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina. They will stay for a minimum of two weeks with the option to extend.

The federal relief team is the third to tap in to support the state's hospitals as COVID-19 cases, as well as other severe illnesses and injuries, have outpaced capacity. The Department of Defense last week set up a team at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis and another team at St. Cloud Hospital on Tuesday.

Read more from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

3. Citing firefighter safety, Dilworth pitches new fire station as part of bonding request to Gov. Walz

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz visits the fire station Thursday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Dilworth to talk about the bonding bill that could help finance its replacement. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The city of Dilworth, backed by area lawmakers, is making a pitch to replace its 40-year-old fire station in the name of improved safety for the city’s volunteer firefighters and better public service.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz visited the fire station on Thursday, Dec. 2, as part of his statewide tour to learn about projects he's considering including in his bonding proposal for the 2022 legislative session.

Walz said he told Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson and Fire Chief Mark Empting they can be certain the request will be part of the proposal.

“These are exactly the type of projects we look for. This community has made use of this facility. Its life expectancy is over,” Walz told local leaders and community members who turned out.

Read more from The Forum's Robin Huebner

4. Organizers tout $72M Bison World project, as plan is questioned by tribes

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This artist's rendering of the rotunda of Bison World is centered by a glass and light display representing fire surrounded by displays of the American bison. Contributed / Apogee Attractions

A Jamestown businessman is heralding the Bison World project as the greatest opportunity for Jamestown in nearly 150 years while Native Americans are asking for more details.

Presentations this week by the organizers of the Bison World project provided updated plans as they move toward making a pitch for financing from the State Investment Board and the Legacy Fund in the future.

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The project has a preliminary cost estimate of $72 million and would be in southwest Jamestown on North Dakota State Hospital land used as pasture by the National Buffalo Museum.

Read more from Forum News Service's Keith Norman

5. Record donation of $15 million will complete Bison indoor football project

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The Nodak Insurance Company Football Performance Complex is expected to break ground in July of 2021. NDSU Athletics photo

The We B Giving Foundation has turned the North Dakota State indoor football practice facility that is currently under construction into the We B Done with Major Fundraising. That’s what a $15 million gift will do.

The single largest one-time commitment in the NDSU athletic department history has suddenly turned the two-phase Nodak Insurance Company Football Performance Complex into a single phase. The private family foundation, called We B Giving and established by Tom and Dawn Blattner, turned the $35 million project for phase one to a completed $50 million building, of which all funds have been privately raised.

Read more from The Forum's Jeff Kolpack

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