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40 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Winona County; total reaches 1,136

Forty new COVID-19 cases in Winona County were confirmed by the Minnesota Department of Health Friday.

These new cases create a new single-day increase record in the county, with the exception of 101 cases announced in one day in mid-September that included mainly old cases that were in the Minnesota Department of Health’s backlog.

Winona County Emergency Management posted on its Facebook page Friday, “These new cases are not associated with the new testing site that opened on Wednesday.”

“Be sure to keep following safety precautions and mask up. Once we learn more information, we will share with the community,” the post said.

The city of Winona posted Friday on its social media, “We’re concerned, though there’s a lot we don’t know. We’re not sure yet where these cases are from. They’re not from the new state testing site, or entirely from colleges, since ages are across the board.”

The city said that this rise matches the rises in other Minnesota counties also this week.

“This brings the 14-day rate to 34-36 — it’s been climbing from the mid-20s over the last month, but not as high as it was in August/September, in the 50s,” the post from the city said. “We’ll update you as we learn more. Remember that trends are more important than daily numbers — we’ll be watching closely to see if this is a one-day issue or a trend.”

The county’s total is now at 1,136.

No COVID-19 related deaths were announced in the county Friday, leaving the total at 18.

The 40 new cases include one 4 years old or younger; one between 5 and 9 years old; three between 10 and 14 years old; six between 15 and 19 years old; five between 20 and 24 years old; two between 25 and 29 years old; three between 30 and 34 years old; three between 35 and 39 years old; three between 45 and 49 years old; one between 50 and 54 years old; two between 55 and 59 years old; four between 60 and 64 years old; one between 65 and 69 years old; three between 70 and 74 years old; and two between 85 and 89 years old.

In Minnesota, 2,297 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Friday.

The cases bring the state’s total to 119,396, including 12,169 health care workers, with 105,120 patients no longer needing to be isolated.

Statewide, 2,448,315 COVID-19 tests have been completed, with 1,646,704 residents having been tested.

Thirteen new deaths were reported in the state, bringing the total to 2,212.

Of these people, 1,559 resided within long-term care or assisted-living facilities.

Statewide, 8,718 people have required hospitalization because of COVID-19, with 2,375 having spent time in an intensive care unit.

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
IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks

Jesson Park Lake reflections the glow of golden leaves at sunset. It’s the most colorful time of year. We are asking our readers to show off the fall colors for all to see. Use a form at https://go.lacrossetribune.com/Photos and send photos our way. We’ll put them in galleries that we will share on social media, and we’ll publish some of them in full color in our papers. You can view our fall colors gallery now at winonadailynews.com.


Local
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Ashley Furniture holding virtual event to teach select schools about job opportunities

In honor of National Manufacturing Month, Ashley Furniture in Arcadia is holding an educational virtual event to teach area students of the various job opportunities within the company.

The virtual event is scheduled to take place in October, as the original in-person tours and events have been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

A specific date has not been given as only select schools can attend.

This isn’t exclusive to just Arcadia, either, as students surrounding advanced-manufacturing facilities in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Mississippi are also invited to attend.

Some opportunities and lessons students will learn include operating a machine and designing furniture, as well as learning about the importance of manufacturing and the economic benefits of the industry.

Ashley president and CEO Todd Wanek expressed in a release Thursday the importance of introducing children to various career opportunities.

“We are passionate about inspiring future creators by exposing them to the incredible career pathways that manufacturing offers,” Wanek said. “Manufacturing is a rapidly advancing industry and it needs our help to ensure the future are not left unfilled.”

Participating school districts in Wisconsin are Arcadia, Arcadia Holy Family, Blair-Taylor, Cochrane-Fountain City, Eleva-Strum, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Independence, Independence SSSP and Whitehall.

Ashley has had a number of partnerships with K-12—and post-secondary—schools over the past five years, which includes investing in STEM-based learning opportunities, scholarships, providing students with exposure to technical trades and career opportunities, instructor training and robotics programs.

As manufacturing continues to advance and the global economy evolves, Ashley said, training and educating the current and future workforce is a crucial part to the U.S.’s success.

IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks

AP
Virus surges in key battleground states as election nears

MADISON — Rising coronavirus cases in key presidential battleground states a little more than two weeks before Election Day are the latest worry for election officials and voters fearing chaos or exposure to the virus at polling places despite months of planning.

The prospect of poll workers backing out at the last minute because they are infected, quarantined or scared of getting sick has local election officials in Midwest states such as Iowa and Wisconsin opening more early voting locations, recruiting backup workers and encouraging voters to plan for long lines and other inconveniences.

Confirmed virus cases and deaths are on the rise in the swing states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin broke records this week for new coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations, leading to the opening of a field hospital to handle COVID-19 patients. Gov. Tony Evers said he plans to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to fill any staffing shortages at election sites.

While holding a competitive presidential election during a pandemic is “tricky business,” the governor said, “People are ready to have this election over, and I think it will be a successful election with very few hiccups.”

In Iowa, Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz opened additional early voting sites in and around Davenport, the state’s third-largest city, to try to reduce the number people casting ballots on Election Day and to keep the virus from spreading in large precincts.

“We have to remember that there is this thing called COVID,” Mortiz said. “Our numbers aren’t getting any better. The more people I can get to early vote, the better.”

The pandemic’s recent trajectory close to home has some voters reconsidering a lifetime habit of entering a voting booth on Election Day.

Tim Tompkins, a welding engineer in Iowa, took the day off work to cast an early ballot at the Bettendorf Community Center. Tompkins, 62, said he and his wife, Pat, were afraid of coronavirus exposure in Election Day crowds but determined to vote, so they brought their own sanitizer to the community center Friday. .

“We’d go through a vat of boiling COVID to get the current president out of office,” Tompkins said.

In some states, voting early still has carried health risks. Voters in Georgia, Texas and elsewhere encountered hours-long lines that required congregating with hundreds of other people this week. In Georgia, nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where Fulton County’s election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive test results for 13 of the preparation center’s 60 workers shouldn’t delay election operations, county elections director Rick Barron said. Barron said Georgia’s most populous county is working to hire replacement staff and to implement additional safety measures, including daily rapid testing.

Voters in several Midwest states contested by U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, encountered lines when they went to cast early ballots on Friday. Some described the decision to vote this year as one that required deliberation and even courage.

Robert Baccus, 52, an independent contractor from Columbus, Ohio, was among hundreds in line at the Franklin County Board of Elections early voting center. He said he doesn’t trust voting by mail, so early voting was his best option for casting a ballot while trying to safeguard his health.

“It’s a choice between life and death, really,” said Baccus, a supporter of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “We could not do it and our votes won’t be counted. It’s a choice I’ve got to make for my children and grandchildren.”

Vickie Howard-Penn, 50, a TSA worker from Columbus, said it was obvious Friday that the record virus cases Ohio reported this week had not deterred fellow voters.

“Did you see the lines? There are three lines trying to get up this way,” Howard-Penn said outside the Franklin County election board. She also planned to vote for Biden.

At some polling places, workers wore masks, gloves and face shields. Lines and voting stations were set up six feet apart and the stations and pens were sanitized between users.

However, poll workers are not required to wear masks everywhere. In Kansas, the secretary of state’s office did not make masks mandatory at the polls, drawing objections from some voters, particularly older ones.

Election officials in Wisconsin said the state’s presidential primary provided lessons that were guiding current preparations.

Wisconsin held its presidential primary early in the pandemic after Democratic attempts to delay the April voting were thwarted. Voters waited in long lines in Milwaukee and elsewhere because a worker shortage meant there were fewer polling places.

Several election officials said they were confident they would have enough poll workers, sanitation supplies and protective gear to ensure Election Day goes smoothly and safely. But they are also encouraging voters to cast their ballots early, if they can.

“Our clerks and communities have learned a lot since the April election,” Waukesha County Clerk Meg Wartman said. “Our community members, our voters, are a lot more confident about how they can be out (safely)….I wouldn’t want people to be afraid to go to the polls because I think we’re better prepared.”

Wisconsin voter Jon Gausewitz, 37, still plans to vote in person on Election Day. He said that could change if the virus situation worsens where he lives outside Madison, the state capital.

“I’m just watching the numbers and rates and hospitalizations, that sort of thing, to see where we’re at,” Gausewitz said. “I’m still feeling pretty safe about it.”

In Ohio, county election boards have put elaborate plans in place to keep voters safe during in-person voting that began Oct. 6, Ohio Association of Election Officials spokesman Aaron Ockerman said.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose updated a 61-point health and safety plan in late September that provides boards with detailed guidance on sanitation, use of personal protective gear, social distancing and other measures.

Anxiety among older Ohio voters may have helped drive the huge turnout at an online AARP-sponsored town hall with the secretary of state this week. More than 15,000 people dialed in, peppering the elections chief with technical questions about voting by mail.

As reassurance, LaRose provided his personal email address to participants and urged them to write with questions. Elections officials are preparing lists of reserve poll workers who are willing to be called on at the last minute.

Minnesota election officials have recruited all 30,000 poll workers they believe are needed to run the general election. They have cross-trained numerous others, including county and city workers, as reserves in case they’re needed, Risikat Adesaogun, a spokeswoman for Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, said.

Officials in the battleground states reported no plans to close polling places, even if virus cases continue to spike.

“Obviously, we would try to open as many polling places as possible,” Nick Custodio, a deputy commissioner for Philadelphia’s election office, said. “We don’t want to close polling places unless that is what is advised.”

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This story has been corrected to show the surname of a voter in Iowa is Tompkins, not Tomkins.

———

Associated Press writers Kate Brumback and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta; Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa; Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; Geoff Mulvihill in Davenport, Iowa; Anna Nichols in Lansing, Michigan; David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa; and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.


Vikings offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland (72) has earned the opportunity for more playing time at guard.


President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One at Miami International Airport to travel to an event in Fort Myers, Fla., Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


Education
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'We're March tired in October:" Teachers exhausted, cases confirmed in Winona Area Public Schools as hybrid model stays

No changes are in store for the Winona Area Public Schools’ learning model at the moment, leaving the education to be completed in a hybrid format.

Freiheit

WAPS Superintendent Annette Freiheit shared that even though the 14-day case rate per 10,000 people in the county is slowly rising again, now as of Friday slightly over the edge into the recommended category of elementary students in hybrid and high and middle school students in distance learning, it’s not in the plans yet to switch to this model.

She said that, as of Tuesday, the local and state health officials have said that it is not yet necessary to change to a different model because the cases are not high within the students and employees.

Freiheit said that the district continues to work closely with these individuals in case a change does become needed.

At the start of the school year, the district was in this advanced model, limiting older students from having any in-person time with their teachers and peers until Sept. 28.

Pfeilsticker

Linda Pfeilsticker, Winona Education Association president, said during the recent board meeting that teachers are tired due to teaching in hybrid and online models, also.

“I think we can all say this is the most trying and difficult teaching year that we’ve all had,” she said.

She said that the teachers continue to work hard, and enjoy having the students back in the school, but that hybrid is hard because of having to teach in two formats at the same time.

“I usually put it this way: By March in Minnesota, everyone is pretty tired in education. We’re worn out. We’re looking very much to spring break,” Pfeilsticker said. “We’re March tired in October.”

Pfeilsticker said that the district needs to begin looking at what they can improve upon, now that it has been in hybrid for some time.

Earlier this week, the district did post on its website a dashboard that will be updated each week with new COVID-19 cases that are students or employees who have likely been in the buildings.

Since the first day of the school year, there have been 11 positive COVID-19 cases, with two having been confirmed between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14.

There is no separation listed between employees and staff or specific schools in the district to help protect privacy.

People who may have been in direct contact with these students or employees are contacted by WAPS as cases are confirmed.

The dashboard is expected to be updated every Thursday.

To view this dashboard and to learn more about WAPS’ response to COVID-19, visit winonaschools.org.

Databank: Maps and more you can use to track COVID-19 spread
IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks