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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Thousand people expected to be tested each day at Winona COVID-19 mass testing event

A steady stream of cars entered the free COVID-19 test site in Winona Tuesday, as about 315 tests were completed by about 12:20 p.m.

The testing only opened at 11 a.m., with 100 tests having been completed in the first 45 minutes.

Ben Klinger, Winona County Emergency Management coordinator, said that as of 1 p.m. the testing had gone smoothly, taking about three minutes for people who were already registered.

Josh DeLaRosa Winona Daily News  

A steady stream of cars went through Winona's free COVID-19 testing event Tuesday.

As for people not registered at the time of arrival, he said he tested out the situation when he initially arrived to the Winona State University parking lot location and he said that he was able to complete it without problems.

Klinger said it only takes about five to six minutes for people who are not preregistered.

He shared that Emergency Management, who teamed up with the state health department, local public health officials and local higher education institutes for this opportunity, hope that at least 1,000 people will be tested at the site each day.

In total, about 2,600 test kits are available to be used during the Tuesday and Wednesday event.

“(With mass testing) we can identify cases early because as we found out sometimes we can be asymptomatic and spread the virus and not even know. So we can identify those cases early and isolate those people to slow the spread down,” Klinger said.

Josh DeLaRosa Winona Daily News  

COVID-19 testing was completed in Winona for free Tuesday morning on the Winona State University campus and is expected to continue into Wednesday.

He said that the actual test is done through the nose, with a swab only going into the nostrils by about an inch.

Klinger said that the shallow procedure is not painful, and may simply cause a person’s eyes to water slightly.

For those nervous about getting tested, Klinger said, “They should come down and get tested. There’s nothing to worry about, all the people are very helpful, very friendly. They’ll walk you through, they’ll talk you through the whole process. It’s a very easy process.”

He said that he and other staff members hope to make a video for social media in the near future showing how easy the testing process can be.

The mass testing event is hosted from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at WSU’s Integrated Wellness Center complex parking lot.

People can drive-thru and be tested or walk up to event for testing.

No insurance is required and all tests are free.

Anybody can be tested, as symptoms of COVID-19 are not required.

Trump defies virus rules as 'peaceful protest' rallies grow

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is running as the “law and order” candidate. But that hasn’t stopped him and his campaign from openly defying state emergency orders and flouting his own administration’s coronavirus guidelines as he holds ever-growing rallies in battleground states.

Democratic governors and local leaders have urged the president to reconsider the events, warning that he’s putting lives at risk. But they have largely not tried to block the gatherings of thousands of people, which Trump and his team deem “peaceful protests” protected by the First Amendment.

“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said in a statement.

Trump’s refusal to abide by health guidelines — even those crafted by his own administration — underscores the extent to which he believes projecting an image of normalcy is vital to winning in November, even as the country approaches 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Trump has tried to use this summer’s mass protests over racial injustice and police misconduct as cover for his rallies, making the case that, if demonstrators can gather en masse, so can his supporters. So far, Democratic governors have declined to stand in his way, refusing to become a foil to Trump and feed into his narrative that liberals are trying to deny Republicans their First Amendment rights.

Trump’s campaign insisted that it takes appropriate health precautions, including handing out masks and hand sanitizer and checking the temperatures of rallygoers.

But images of thousands of maskless supporters standing shoulder to shoulder remain jarring in a country where sports are still played in empty arenas and concerts have been largely banned. That’s especially true for those who have lost loved ones or spent months isolating at home and worry that rallies will further spread infection, undermining hard-fought progress. An indoor rally that Trump held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June was blamed for a surge of virus infections there.

“President Trump believes that people can make their own decisions,” about whether to attend a rally, Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” when questioned about the message indoor campaign rallies are sending.

Trump held an indoor rally at the Xtreme Manufacturing facility in Henderson, Nevada, on Sunday night. The state restricts gatherings to 50 people — based on White House reopening guidelines —- but thousands of supporters packed into the warehouse nonetheless. Few people wore masks.

“This is an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices, and put their neighbors before themselves,” said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat.

The city of Henderson on Monday announced that it was fining Xtreme Manufacturing $3,000. Sisolak slammed the rally as “shameful, dangerous and irresponsible.” But it does not appear the governor would try to prevent a replay. If Trump returns to the state for another rally, said COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage, state officials will continue to encourage his campaign to follow state law and directives.

In some other states, the rallies are legal. In North Carolina, an order signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper limits outdoor gatherings to 50 people and mandates masks in public, but “activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights” are exempt.

“By using the First Amendment exemption for mass gatherings under the governor’s executive order in this way, they’re making it much harder for North Carolina to get our children back in school and people back to work safely,” said Dory MacMillan, a spokesperson for Cooper.

In Michigan, political speech is exempt from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order limiting the size of outdoor gatherings. And while Whitmer’s office issued a memo saying people engaging in First Amendment activities still must adhere to social distancing measures, the state hasn’t moved to enforce the rules at Trump’s rallies or during protests.

“We hope the president would care enough about his supporters and their friends and families that he would encourage social distancing and mask wearing,” said Ryan Jarvi, a spokesperson for Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Nevada is one state where Trump has encountered resistance. His campaign had originally planned to hold a pair of rallies over the weekend in Las Vegas and Reno, but those plans were scuttled after the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority warned one of the hosts that the rally would violate the governor’s restrictions and the company’s lease. Trump’s campaign immediately moved to blame Sisolak for the pushback, but the governor’s office insisted it had had no involvement.

Trump told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in an interview Sunday that “he did not believe he was subject” to the order and blamed Sisolak for forcing him to abandon plans for the outdoors rallies.

“They canceled six different sites because the governor wouldn’t let it happen, all external sites,” the president said. The campaign did not respond to questions about what sites they had tried.

Upcoming rallies in Wisconsin on Thursday and Minnesota on Friday will be held in open-air airplane hangars, and neither state caps attendance on outdoor events, even though COVID-19 cases have been surging in Wisconsin.

Ashley Mukasa, a spokesperson for Wisconsin’s Winnebago County Health Department, said the county doesn’t have any local ordinances that would allow it to issue or enforce local health orders. However, the agency briefed Trump’s advance team about the statewide mask mandate, she said.

“They wanted to avoid breaking any laws,” Mukasa said.

In Minnesota, where Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has long been reluctant to spar publicly with Trump, the virus order exempts anything that would limit “the movement of federal officials in Minnesota while acting in their official capacity.” Beltrami County’s public health director, Cynthia Borgen, said Minnesota’s health department had decided the president’s visit would fall under that exemption — even though he will be there to campaign.

For one activist from the state, Trump’s co-opting of the term peaceful protest represents “a new low.”

“His actions are a mockery of legitimate peaceful protests that have been happening in Minnesota and around the country regarding our stances against police violence and brutality,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and former president of the Minneapolis NAACP.

Trump on Monday again drew hundreds of supporters to an indoor event in Phoenix that his campaign advertised as a “Latinos for Trump roundtable,” limiting scrutiny, but Trump said “it looks like a rally.”

Most in the audience did not wear masks, though tables filled with hundreds of unused masks were at the entrance to the event.


Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., Bryan Anderson, in Raleigh, N.C., Sam Metz in Carson City, Nev., Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., Aaron Morrison in New York, Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis and Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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Rep. Pelowski found to have incorrectly used campaign funds; must repay almost $4,000 plus fine

Rep. Gene Pelowski has been ordered to pay almost $4,000 back to his campaign fund, along with a $1,000 fine, after money from his Pelowski Volunteer Committee was incorrectly used for living expenses from 2017 to 2019, according to the Star Tribune.

Rep. Gene Pelowski

The funds, used for rent, furniture and utilities, totaled $3,976.27.

The misused money was discovered by Minnesota’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

Pelowski told the Winona Daily News Tuesday, “There was no intent to do anything illegal.”

He was surprised that it took three years for the error to be noticed, but he does agree that it was an error and will pay back the funds used incorrectly, along with the fine.

Pelowski’s lawyer, according to the Star Tribune, declared to the board that it was an isolated incident of Pelowski’s campaign funds being incorrectly used and that for the future, the committee’s treasurer does know the restrictions that are in place when using campaign funds.

The investigation into Pelowski’s use of funds was launched in April.

Pelowski has been elected as a DFL representative for District 28A, including the Winona area, for 17 terms, having been first elected in 1986.

He is also an educator with Winona State University.

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Winona County COVID-19 total approaches 700 with 15 more cases confirmed

Winona County is quickly approaching 700 cases, as 14 new COVID-19 cases and one transferred case were confirmed in the county Tuesday by the Minnesota Department, raising the total to 694 since the start of the pandemic.

The double-digit increase comes after only two new cases Monday, a low number that is now seen as a rarity in Winona County’s quick increase trend.

The transfered case likely comes from another county where it was originally incorrectly listed.

No new deaths were reported in Winona County Tuesday, leaving the total at 17.

No information about the 15 added cases was released yet by state or county officials.

County officials, though, are expected to release their weekly demographics COVID-19 update Thursday this week, instead of Wednesday as normal, due to mass testing within the city of Winona early in the week.

In Minnesota, 432 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The cases bring the state’s total to 85,351, with 78,953 no longer needing to be isolated.

Of these positive cases, 9,265 are health-care workers.

Statewide, 1,733,292 COVID-19 tests have been completed, with 1,247,867 residents having been tested.

Five new deaths were reported in the state, bringing the total to 1,927.

Of these people, 1,400 resided within long-term care or assisted-living facilities.

Statewide, 6,979 people have required hospitalization because of COVID-19, with 238 remaining in hospitals Tuesday.

Of the currently hospitalized patients, 131 are in intensive care.

For daily Minnesota COVID-19 situation updates, visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.

Databank: Maps and more you can use to track COVID-19 spread

Head-on collision in Buffalo sends woman to hospital

A multi-vehicle crash in Buffalo Monday resulted in a woman being taken to Winona Health with moderate injuries, the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday.

Deputies said the accident occurred at 1:43 p.m. on County Trunk Highway M near South 34/54 after a vehicle driven by Scott Larsen, 53, of Winona, rear-ended another into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision.

The victim, Mary Jo Wicka, 61, of Fountain City, was struck by a semi tractor-trailer combo driven by Waylon Erdmann, 43, of Dakota, who attempted evasive maneuvers before striking her.

Wicka was transported via Winona Area Ambulance to Winona Health.

No charges were announced.