5 things to know today: Homeless help, Medical abortion, Election integrity, Monkeypox cases, Richard Szeitz
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. Advocates push for housing to help downtown Fargo's growing homeless population
Fargo's homeless outreach coordinator, who often hits the streets of downtown, has a solution to the increasing concerns about unhoused residents who call the core of the city their home.
Instead of living on the streets, sleeping outdoors or spending days in shelters, Jillian Gould's answer is simple: find housing for homeless people.
That's what she told the Fargo Liquor Control Board at their June meeting after members asked about what can be done about the homeless population on downtown streets.
Homeless people living downtown have not caused serious incidents, according to police and Downtown Community Partnership Executive Director Cindy Graffeo.
However, Graffeo said, there has been an increase in calls as downtown traffic rebounds after a couple quieter years.
2. Minnesota tracks slight decrease in induced abortions in 2021, most medication abortions on record
Induced abortions in Minnesota remained nearly level in 2021, the state reported on Friday, July 1, ahead of an expected increase in demand for the service following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling terminating the constitutional right to an abortion.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday released its annual report detailing statistics about the demographics of patients who underwent abortions in 2021 and the providers that facilitated those treatments. The information is tracked and made public under state law.
In 2021, 10,136 patients were reported to have terminated a pregnancy, down about 2% from the year prior but up from the 9,922 reported in 2019.
Roughly 61% of patients sought medication abortions in 2021, compared to 39% who obtained surgical abortion procedures. That's the highest rate of medication abortions on record in Minnesota and it comes as abortion providers pivot to expand access to medication abortion services, including adding a telehealth provider called Just the Pill that mails abortion medication to eligible patients in the state.
3. National election integrity debate thrusts Minnesota secretary of state race into spotlight
Following Republican claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections, and President Donald Trump’s attempt to court state officials to overturn election results, there’s been increased national focus on typically sleepy races for secretary of state, where the winner can potentially have a significant impact on how states conduct their elections.
This year’s contest between Democratic-Farmer-Labor incumbent Steve Simon, who has held the office since 2014, and Republican-endorsed challenger Kim Crockett has so far seen record levels of fundraising, with Simon holding a significant lead. At the end of May, Simon’s campaign had more than half a million dollars on hand, a level roughly four times as high as the same point in the 2018 election. Meanwhile, Crockett had more than $56,000 on hand.
Hamline University political science professor David Schultz, who teaches election law at the University of Minnesota Law School, said the new dynamics of a typically overlooked race come after years of GOP voter fraud allegations which have now escalated into outright claims of elections being stolen.
“As we're seeing across the country, as a result of the 2020 election, election administration is a hotly disputed and partisanly disputed issue ... There's a realization that election administration matters in terms of the conduct of elections,” Schultz said. “There's an enormous partisan divide over voting rights in America and it's centering on secretaries of state across the country, including in Minnesota.”
Georgia and Michigan, which were key states in President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat, are seeing skeptics of the last presidential election’s outcome running for secretary of state. And in Minnesota, where no Republican has won a statewide election since 2006, there’s still a perception among GOP strategists that Minnesota is a swing state within their grasp, Schultz said.
4. More cases of monkeypox identified in Minnesota
Minnesota health officials on Friday, July 1, said they have identified multiple new monkeypox infections in the state, bringing the total number of cases to six.
All the cases identified so far are in adults living in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. All had a history of travel, including domestic travel, or had direct contact with someone who had traveled. On June 25 Minnesota identified its first case, which was in a person who had traveled to Europe. However, community spread not attached to travel could soon be identified as it has in other states, the Minnesota Department of Health said.
While case numbers remain low, it's possible not all patients with monkeypox have sought testing. Officials said they’re concerned the number of infections could grow rapidly unless people who are infected take steps to protect themselves and seek medical care.
“It’s clear that monkeypox has come to Minnesota,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said in a news release. “While our current cases are associated with travel outside Minnesota, we expect we will soon see cases among people who have no travel history or contact with someone who did, indicating that spread within social networks in Minnesota is occurring.”
Lynfield said it's possible many people with cases are not seeking medical attention and that the number of cases nationally is much higher than what current reports show.
International health officials raised concerns about monkeypox this spring after the disease was identified in several European countries where it is not usually found. As of June 24, The CDC has reported 201 cases of monkeypox in 26 states after the first U.S. case was confirmed in Massachusetts in May. In 2022 there have been more than 4,000 cases in dozens of countries outside where it is typically found in western and central Africa.
5. Richard Szeitz, creator of West Acres mall fountain sculpture, dies at 92
To many, Richard Szeitz was a quiet man, but his art spoke from the heart, expressing gratitude, appreciation and compassion for nature and humankind.
No piece of his spoke to more people than the copper fountain sculpture at West Acres, installed before the opening of the shopping center 50 years ago this August.
Szeitz died in his sleep on June 27. He was 92 years old.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1930, Szeitz arrived at Minnesota State University Moorhead — then known as Moorhead State College — in 1965 to help establish the art department. For the next 30 years, he remained an influential teacher and chair of the department.
Even after officially retiring, he returned to teach and donated his income to the school for computers in the art and design department.