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Minnesota lawmakers will reconvene to bolster COVID-19 fight

MINNEAPOLIS  — Minnesota lawmakers were preparing to return to the Capitol to beef up the state’s fight against COVID-19 and help residents cope with the economic hardships.
Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka notified legislators late Tuesday that they will reconvene Thursday. The House will meet at noon, while the Senate will gather at 2 p.m..

“We are continuing to work closely with the Walz Administration on urgent COVID-19 matters to protect the health and well-being of Minnesotans,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “We will publicly release details on specific legislation on the House and Senate websites as soon as we can.”

The House and Senate have been in recess since March 17, when they voted unanimously to approve $200 million to help the state’s health care system respond to the pandemic. They’ve been meeting via private conference calls since then in working groups that mirror the Legislature’s committee structure to develop spending and policy proposals for providing more relief than Gov. Tim Walz can deliver by executive order.

No legislation had been posted and no public hearings had been announced by Wednesday morning. Leaders also had yet to announce how they would conduct votes under Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for social distancing.

Walz has asked the Legislature for $356 million in additional funding on top of the money lawmakers already approved.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The state’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 262 as of Tuesday, an increase of 27 from Monday. Fifteen patients were hospitalized out of a total of 21 since the pandemic reached the state. Officials have stressed that the real total of Minnesota residents with the disease is much higher.

Minneapolis-based Target announced new measures Wednesday to protect shoppers and store employees. Checkout lanes will be cleaned after each sale. New signs and floor decals will encourage shoppers to keep their distance from each other. Target will suspend sales of reusable bags and ask guests who bring their own bags to pack their own items at checkout. Also, Target will stop accepting in-store merchandise returns and exchanges for three weeks, though it will honor returns that expire during that period.

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