5 things to know today: Risk level, Wedding infections, 100 hours, Renaming policy, Tourism impacted
1. Burgum moves North Dakota's COVID-19 hot spots up to 'yellow' risk level after health officials urged change
Gov. Doug Burgum announced Thursday, Sept. 3, that he is raising the official COVID-19 risk level for eight North Dakota counties with high rates of infection. The governor had faced backlash for his reluctance to adjust the state's virus color-coded gauge.
The counties moving up to the moderate, or "yellow," risk designation are Burleigh, Morton, Grand Forks, Stark, Williams, McLean, Barnes and Benson. Three of the states largest metro areas — Bismarck, Grand Forks and Dickinson — are encompassed by the counties.
Prior to Thursday, all of North Dakota had stayed in the low, or "green," level since May.
Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley
2. 1 wedding + 275 guests + 0 masks = 56 COVID cases in 9 Minnesota counties
Gov. Tim Walz and state officials Thursday, Sept. 3, pointed to a rise since July in the case positivity rate — from 4.3% to 5.5% — in their continued appeal for residents to exercise caution in social gatherings, especially over the coming holiday weekend.
The portion of positive cases related to community spread — no known origin — also has triggered state officials' concern, rising from 27.8 % to 33.5% over the same period.
In a departure for the normally tight-lipped health officials, at Thursday's news conference state Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann noted how one indoor wedding in southwest Minnesota had more guests than allowed (275), an event with no masks that has now produced 56 cases in nine counties.
"Among the new cases were educators, long-term care workers, and health care workers," Ehresmann said, expressing concern about the ability of those professions to spread illness to vulnerable populations. Ehresmann said health officials believed the number was an undercount, as health officals had come to believe that some guests were not being tested in order to keep the case numbers low, thereby allowing further spread.
Read more from Forum News Service's Paul John Scott
3. Minnesota man survives 100 hours pinned under tree
A western Minnesota man was rescued by emergency personnel Monday, Aug. 31, after being trapped under a tree for more than 100 hours, according to the Redwood County Sheriff’s Office.
On Thursday, Aug. 27, Jonathan Ceplecha, 59, was cutting down trees behind his house about two miles east of Redwood Falls on U.S. Highway 71 when a large oak tree fell, pinning Ceplecha underneath.
According to Redwood County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Farasyn, Ceplecha lives by himself and the Sheriff’s Office wasn’t notified anything was amiss until he didn’t show up for two days at Marshall Area Technical & Educational Center, where he works as a teacher.
"Not many people could have survived that,” Farasyn said. “Jonathan’s an Iraqi war veteran so that probably had something to do with this in order to survive.”
Read more from The Forum's Mark Wasson
4. Fargo School District drafts policy on renaming buildings after ire over Woodrow Wilson name
A policy for renaming Fargo Public School buildings is close to being adopted after a Thursday, Sept. 3, meeting of a school board committee.
A six-page draft outlining the policy, compiled and proposed by Tamara Uselman, the district’s newly hired director of equity and inclusion, is based on Stanford University’s current policy on renaming school facilities and other spaces.
“This is not some language we thought up on the fly. It’s information that has been thought through by prestigious institutions,” Fargo School Board President Rebecca Knutson said.
Efforts to create such a policy began after members of the public, including Forum columnist Jim Shaw, complained about the name of Woodrow Wilson High School, citing Wilson's record of racist policies as president.
Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen
5. Coronavirus a $5 billion hit to Minnesota tourism industry
From the St. Paul Pioneer Press via Forum News Service
After four decades at Grand View Lodge, Mark Ronnei usually knows what to expect every summer at the popular Nisswa, Minn., resort. But this isn’t a normal summer.
“The day before Memorial Day, I didn’t know if I was going to have a terrible summer or a non-existent summer,” said Ronnei, Grand View’s managing director.
When it came to summer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, resorts and campgrounds in Greater Minnesota were among the bright spots, according to Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism promotion office. On the flip side, the pandemic-related travel downturn has cost Minnesota roughly $5 billion in travel spending losses from mid-March through August, according to industry research by Tourism Economics.