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No end in sight for Winona testing site
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No end is in sight for Winona’s semi-permanent COVID-19 testing site, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed Monday.

The department told Winona County, “There are no plans to close the Winona community testing site at this time. Minnesotans in the Winona region are encouraged to visit the community testing site at the Winona Mall, especially anyone who has symptoms, was exposed, has attended a high-risk event, works outside of the home, and is returning to a classroom or campus. Testing is critical to Minnesota’s COVID-19 response, and the state’s no-cost, barrier-free community sites make it easy for anyone to get a test.”

The fate of the testing sight had been unknown for the past few weeks, as a new extension had not been issued and all that was known at the local level was that it would be open through February.

Through the week of January 31, 12,350 tests — all of which are done through the collection of saliva — had been completed at the Winona Mall.

The highest week was that of Nov. 15 with 2,510 tests completed, while it has slowed down since.

The lowest week was that of Dec. 20 with 349 tests completed.

No week has had more than 1,000 tests completed since the very beginning of December.

The Winona County Health and Human Services department says that the decrease of tests may be due to “less demand for testing (and/or) a decrease in college student population.”

For more information about this testing option and others, visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.

IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks (copy)

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Great River Road, two other scenic routes win national designations

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) last week celebrated cooperative efforts along three of the state’s major waterfronts that won Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) designations for their national importance as tourism destinations.

The FHWA’s National Scenic Byways Program declared the Wisconsin Great River Road (previously recognized as a National Scenic Byway) an All-American Road.

Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Byway and Door County’s Coastal Byway both gained National Scenic Byway designations. The routes are selected based upon the archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities they offer.

“It is a well-deserved honor for these three routes to gain National Scenic Byways titles, which help guide travelers from around the world,” WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said. “I want to thank all those who worked on these designations and welcome anyone to enjoy the spectacular beauty and recreation these routes offer in Wisconsin.”

“Wisconsin is filled with unexpected memories waiting to be discovered at every turn and these three scenic routes show off some of the best of what Wisconsin has to offer,” said Acting Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers. “As more travelers hit the road this year, we look forward to this well-deserved national recognition inspiring road-trippers from near and far to take in Wisconsin’s natural beauty and stretch their legs at the many restaurants, shops and recreation areas along the way.”

The designated routes are:

Wisconsin Great River Road (All American Road) – covers 250 miles in Wisconsin and passes through 33 river towns along WIS 35. It had been Wisconsin’s only National Scenic Byway and was often called “The best drive in the Midwest.” The route connects to 10 other state routes as it follows the Mississippi River from its headwaters to its mouth.

Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Scenic Byway (National Scenic Byway) — follows 70 miles of WIS 13 along the southern shore of Lake Superior along the Bayfield Peninsula through quaint harbor towns and historic fishing villages, near dozens of orchards and fruit farms, along miles of sand beach and the home of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Densely forested lands provide a spectacular backdrop to the year ‘round recreational opportunities that abound with hundreds of miles of hiking, biking, snowmobile, ATV and cross-county ski trails.

Door County’s Coastal Byway (National Scenic Byway) — stretches over 66 miles along WIS 57 and 42 from Sturgeon Bay to the tip of the peninsula and back. The route offers scenic vistas of Lake Michigan, the Niagara Escarpment bluffs, dense forests, agricultural lands and quaint shore-side towns and villages.

The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Established in 1991 and reauthorized and expanded significantly in 1998, the program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States.

IN PHOTOS: Tundra swans migrate down the Mississippi

Dominion Voting Systems sues 'MyPillow Guy' for $1.3 billion

MINNEAPOLIS — Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit Monday against the founder and CEO of Minnesota-based MyPillow, saying that Mike Lindell falsely accused the company of rigging the 2020 presidential election.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in the District of Columbia alleges that Lindell ignored repeated warnings from Dominion, a voting technology company that has filed similar lawsuits against Donald Trump lawyers Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

Dominion accuses Lindell of repeatedly telling what the lawsuit labels the “Big Lie” that the company used its technology to steal the election from Trump.

“No amount of money can repair the damage that’s been done by these lies, which are easily disproved. Hundreds of documented audits and recounts have proven that Dominion machines accurately counted votes. We look forward to proving these facts in a court of law,” the lawsuit says.

Lindell, known as the “MyPillow Guy” from his TV commercials, told The Associated Press that he welcomed the lawsuit and said the discovery process will prove him right.

“It’s a very good day. I’ve been looking forward to them finally suing,” said Lindell, who went to the White House to promote his theories in the final days of the Trump administration.

There was no widespread fraud in the election, which a range of election officials across the country including Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to President Joe Biden’s victory, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies were dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.

Lindell took umbrage at being repeatedly accused in the lawsuit of telling the “Big Lie” — noting that the expression was coined by Adolf Hitler. “The Big Lie here is the big lie,” Lindell said. “They’re the big lie.”

Lindell stood by a long video amplifying his claims that he released Feb. 5 and said he recently posted a 20-minute version.

This is the third defamation lawsuit that Dominion has filed against its accusers. At a news conference, Dominion CEO John Poulos said “it is by no means the last.” He said the company was also looking at the actions of various news organizations in the aftermath of the election.

Poulos and Dominion lawyer Megan Meier alleged that Lindell didn’t really believe that the election was stolen from Trump.

“He knew that lying about Trump’s loss would be good for MyPillow’s bottom line,” Meier said.

They disputed Lindell’s claims that he has lost money for standing by his claims, and said they looked forward to examining MyPillow’s finances as part of the legal proceedings.

“MyPillow’s defamatory marketing campaign — with promo codes like `FightforTrump,’ ‘45,’ ‘Proof’ and ‘QAnon’— has increased MyPillow sales by 30-40% and continues duping people into redirecting their election-lie outrage into pillow purchases,” the lawsuit alleges.

Lindell said MyPillow did get a brief surge in sales. But he said more than 20 retailers have now dropped his products, including Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s, and noted that Twitter permanently banned him and MyPillow.

“I’d love to go to court tomorrow with Dominion,” Lindell said.


Associated Press media writer David Bauder reported from New York.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin (6) listens to coach Ryan Saunders during a game against the Houston Rockets. Saunders was fired on Sunday and replaced by Chris Finch on Monday.

FILE-This Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 file photo shows currently 73 crosses, representing deaths to COVID-19 in Nevada County, are part of the COVID Memorial, in Grass Valley, Calif. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to provide more details Thursday, Feb. 11, about revelations that the state underreported as many as 4,000 COVID-19 deaths, or more than a third of reported deaths to date. The Ohio Department of Health says those deaths will now be added to the state’s tally of deaths from the coronavirus during the coming week. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

7 men charged in northern Minnesota sex trafficking ring

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Seven men have been arrested and charged in a northern Minnesota human trafficking ring, according to state investigators.

The defendants, including five from Minnesota, were arrested Wednesday through Friday during an undercover operation. They’re being held in jails in Itasca and Pennington counties.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension led the sting in partnership with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force and Itasca County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the BCA, the men connected with undercover investigators on sex advertisement websites. They were arrested when they showed up at arranged meetings for sex.

Many of the charges involve soliciting a person believed to be a minor.

“What this operation tells us is that there is demand to sexually exploit young people in Northern Minnesota,” said Itasca County Attorney Matti Adam. “This type of proactive law enforcement effort helps detect those who prey on our young and vulnerable populations.”

The Minnesota defendants are from Grand Rapids, Sawyer, Chisholm and Goodridge.