Jul 29, 2021

Axios Twin Cities

Happy Thursday!

  • We finally get a break from the 90s today. Rejoice!

🥇 Olympics update: Lakeville native Regan Smith won a silver in the 200-meter butterfly early this morning, which will pair nicely with the bronze she won in the 100 backstroke two days ago.

  • St. Paul's Suni Lee is competing this morning in the women's gymnastics all-around final. The event is being streamed live on Peacock TV and NBC will broadcast it tonight.

🥳 Oh, and congratulations to @AxiosTwinCities follower @lauren_jerome for winning our recent $100 giveaway. Give us a follow for more chances to win.

Today's newsletter is 930 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: How local schools are handling masks

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

State and federal health officials are urging universal masking in schools this fall, but not all local districts are following suit so far.

Driving the news: The Minnesota Department of Health issued new back-to-school guidance Wednesday, encouraging mask use indoors for students and teachers regardless of vaccination status.

  • Unlike last year, the state won't mandate mask use. Decisions will be up to local districts and school boards.

The big picture: States and school districts across the nation are grappling with how to handle the return to the classroom amid new concerns about the fast-spreading Delta variant.

  • Public health officials, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say masking at school will protect kids under 12, who can't yet get a vaccine.

Yes, but: Masking policies have been met with backlash from some parents in Minnesota and beyond.

State of play: Many districts had been waiting for guidance from MDH to issue a decision for the fall, Gary Lee, deputy executive director of Minnesota School Board Association, told us. Here's a look at the range of approaches so far:

  • Required: Rochester's public school board approved a mask mandate for children ages 2 to 12 on Tuesday. Masks are recommended, but not required, for students older than 12 and staff. Duluth, meanwhile, will mandate masks for grades five and below, as well as for staff working with those students.
  • Optional: Anoka-Hennepin, the state's largest district, isn't mandating masks, but it does recommend use regardless of vaccination status. Masks will also be optional at South Washington County Schools.
  • Still mulling: Minneapolis Public Schools and St. Paul School District haven't announced their policies. Decisions should be released in the coming weeks.

The bottom line: "At this point, it's going to be all over the board," Lee said.

Full story.

2. Scott County won't mandate masks
Expand chart
Data: CDC; Map: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Scott County in the southwest Twin Cities metro will not implement a mask mandate, despite being one of 14 Minnesota counties the CDC says should do so.

  • "... (W)e will rely on and encourage our area communities to carefully consider putting social distancing and masking in place as they deem necessary," Scott County public health director Lisa Brodsky told us in a statement.

By the numbers: 58% of all Scott County residents have at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC, which is more than the statewide rate of 56%.

  • But the CDC says new cases are up 200% over the last week in Scott County, although only 78 cases were reported over those seven days.

Of note: Scott is the only metro county to hit the CDC's new threshold for recommending masks. The other 13 are in rural areas.

3. What to watch as Vikings start training camp

Kirk Cousins (left) is back for another season as the Vikings quarterback, but keep an eye on rookie Kellen Mond (right). Photo: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings held their first team practice yesterday at Eagan's TCO Performance Center.

What to watch: The Vikings have remade several units of their team as they fight to return to the playoffs in a division that, unfortunately, has Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay again.

  • The defensive line should be much improved with the return of Danielle Hunter from injury, the signings of Sheldon Richardson and Dalvin Tomlinson and the debut of Michael Pierce, who missed last season due to health concerns related to COVID-19.
  • The offensive line lost solid left tackle Riley Reiff, but has two young rookies to watch: Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis.
  • The secondary added Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland, and the team is hoping young corners Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney take steps forward.
  • Kirk Cousins will be back as the starting quarterback, but fans will get their first glimpse of rookie third-round pick Kellen Mond in training camp.

Nick's confidence level: 6.

  • The team should be better thanks to the D-Line, but once again it all comes down to the offensive line holding up.

Good to know: Information on tickets to watch practice (some are free) can be found here.

4. Add these attractions to your must-see list for the state fair

Riptide, the Minnesota State Fair's new roller coaster. Photo courtesy of Minnesota State Fair

Cajun cheese curds, COVID-19 vaccines and a stomach-churning roller coaster are heading to the fairgrounds for the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

Driving the news: With opening day a month away, the Minnesota State Fair announced a host of new attractions and vendors Wednesday.

Read the full story for highlights.

5. Catch up quick: Remembering Rep. Ramstad

Late Rep. Jim Ramstad at a victory party in 2000. Photo: Vruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

📬 Legislation renaming a Wayzata post office to honor of the late Rep. Jim Ramstad is heading to President Biden's desk following passage by the full U.S. Senate. (Press release)

🛒 Duluth is getting a Costco, and it's likely to open by November. (Star Tribune)

👮 Activists and some First Amendment attorneys are raising concerns about a private security contractors hired by an Uptown mall following protests over Winston Smith's killing. (The Minnesota Reformer)

💲 Minnesota is likely to add another firm to its roster of 18 Fortune 500 companies as New Brighton-based APi Group acquired a U.K. fire and security business for $3.1 billion. (Twin Cities Business)

🚧 A bipartisan group of senators finally reached a deal on "the major issues" in their $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. Minnesota and city officials are hoping to see an influx of cash for local projects. (Axios)

6. Worthy of your time: Our youth circus

Emme Martini practices silks for "Galaxium." Photo courtesy of Circus Juventas

The circus is in town! Well, technically, it never left.

Driving the news: St. Paul's Circus Juventas, the largest youth circus school in North America, is opening this year's summer show "Galaxium" on Friday.

Details: The story takes place in 2050 on "an alien planet at the edge of the known universe" with conspiracy theories, comedy and high-flying stunts.

  • The cast of 75 students trained year-round for the show, which will have 16 performances, said program director Katy McEwen. Tickets for the 3-hour showcase range from $30-$50.
  • Our thought bubble: It's a student performance, but considering a traveling Cirque du Soleil show starts at $60 for nosebleed seats, it's not a bad deal.

Full story.

Thanks for reading, and congratulations on making it one day closer to Friday!