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5 things to know today: Price spike, Vaccine eligibility, Economic outlook, Police reform, Workforce academy

A rundown of some of the best stories found on Inforum.

The new Bear Creek natural gas processing plant is pictured in mid-September near Killdeer.jpeg
The Bear Creek natural gas processing plant near Killdeer, N.D. Special to The Forum

1. Investigations afoot over natural gas price spikes in North Dakota, Minnesota

A price spike resulting from a surge in natural gas demand during the intense cold front that gripped much of the country last week may be passed on to customers in the Upper Midwest.

For some households in Minnesota and North Dakota, the damage could be in the range of several hundred dollars of additional heating costs, a hit that utility companies and regulators of both states are looking to spread over a longer period of time.

At a hearing of Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 23, CenterPoint Energy, the state’s largest natural gas utility, estimated an increase in customers’ utility bills between $300 and $400, a cost that could be spread over more than a year.

Read more from The Forum's Adam Willis

2. Walz: 70% of older Minnesotans must be vaccinated before expanding eligibility

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A coronavirus graphic. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Access to the vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, will not be extended to wider swaths of Minnesota's population until 70% of older adults in the state have been inoculated, Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday, Feb. 25.

Minnesota could hit that target and expand eligibility for the vaccine as early as April, according to the governor's office. Already, roughly 43% of Minnesotans ages 65 and older have been vaccinated.

Once the 70% benchmark is met, Minnesotans with certain underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, or who work in settings with a high risk of disease exposure, would be next in line to receive the vaccine.

Read more from Forum News Service's Matthew Guerry

3. North Dakota economic outlook hints at recovery from pandemic

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The Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise at North Dakota State University has released an updated Economic Outlook for the North Dakota economy that hints at a possible recovery from economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The outlook report for the first quarter of 2021 forecasts economic trends for the state of North Dakota and the metro areas of Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks.

The report uses the North Dakota Forecast Model developed by Dr. Jeremy Jackson, director of the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise and professor of economics at North Dakota State University.

Read more

4. Police accountability group sees more than half of its reforms become Minnesota law

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Demonstrators have placed balloons, flowers, signs and candles the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis in honor of George Floyd, who died on Monday, May 25, 2020 following a police incident. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service

A state workgroup dedicated to reducing the number of deadly force encounters between Minnesotans and police officers has seen a number of its policy recommendations passed into law in recent months, but its work will continue.

Established in 2019 by Attorney General Keith Ellison and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, the 18-member work group met virtually Thursday, Feb. 25, to discuss its work over the past year and a half, and what more they’d like to do moving forward.

“This is not like a football game where there's an opening whistle and then the clock runs out,” Ellison said Thursday. “This doesn't have a finite end. We’re working on justice and we’re going to keep working on it until it’s done.”

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Read more from Forum News Service's Sarah Mearhoff

5. $1.5M in federal funds awarded to Fargo career workforce academy project

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This image reflects what a career workforce academy in Fargo may look like. Special to The Forum.

The U.S. Department of Commerce and its Economic Development Administration announced Thursday, Feb. 25, that $1.5 million in CARES Act recovery assistance funds will be going to support construction of a career workforce academy in Fargo.

The grant, which is going to the North Dakota State College of Science Foundation in Wahpeton to build the academy, will be pooled with millions of private and public sector dollars to make the project happen.

When completed, the academy is expected to create 109 jobs and help provide area employers with needed workers.

Read more from The Forum's Dave Olson

What to read next
The vaccine-only showings will start Friday, Jan. 21, and will be updated every couple of weeks depending on new releases.
When given early, lab-engineered antibody infusions have reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations among persons at high risk. Previous versions of these treatments do not appear to work against the omicron variant, however. Replacement products are in short supply, with providers given a few dozen treatments weekly while managing hundreds of new patients.
Sanford Health administrators stress that no agreement has been reached, and can't predict when pandemic conditions will allow them to accept Canadian patients.
The 13 fatalities raise the state's COVID-19 death toll to 2,573, with 85 deaths reported in January thus far. The COVID-19 daily hospitalization tally jumped significantly, climbing 44 to 392. Of those, 76 are in intensive care.