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CAC Food Shelf receives more than 3¼ tons of food in mass donation

A food drive for the Community Action Food Shelf on Sunday netted more than 6,600 pounds of food from more than 140 cars/bikers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was amazing,” said CAC Program Director Anika Rychner. “I would say it’s a huge success.”

The event was a different take on the annual Northfield Area Fire Department food drive, and organizers intended to raise food for those in need during the pandemic.

“This was a really easy, fun, safe way to do that,” Rychner said.

The Food Shelf accepted non-perishable food within two years of the best-by dates. Most requested items were shelf-stable proteins, fruits and vegetables, cooking items, grains and donations.

Northfielder Nancy Hegland dropped off canned goods, including tomato-based products and tuna.

“Protein provides a good source of nutrition and it gives a good basis if you’re not able to get some other things,” she said.

“It’s really important for me to be able to give back, and also we are able to do that and some aren’t. And so that’s a piece that’s really important to me, that we are able to give the resources that we can to others at this time when they may be really struggling.”

Fellow Northfielder Susan Weinbeck also donated to the CAC Food Shelf.

“There’s so many people struggling, and whatever we can do as a community, we’re happy to do,” she said.

“It takes a community. If everyone can chip in a little, it can make a big difference.”

Additional donations

A fundraiser led by Sterling Pharmacy, which has one location in Northfield, will benefit the CAC. The fundraiser, which ran through Tuesday, had $1,150 in pledges as of Tuesday morning. Whatever is raised from donors at at Sterling locations will be matched up to $20,000 by the Astrup Family Foundation. The goal in Northfield was to raise $1,000.

“The impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented. People are sick, scared, out of work, out of school, and in need of support from their communities,” read a post on its Facebook page. “Our Sterling Pharmacy family works hard every day to provide support for one basic need—health—but right now, we need to go a step further. We want to help fill the food shelves in all Sterling Pharmacy communities to make sure our patients and communities have what they need to weather this storm.”


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GOP selects Kistner to face Angie Craig in congressional race

Prior Lake resident Tyler Kistner was endorsed by 2nd District Republicans on the first ballot during Saturday’s online convention to face off against U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Eagan.

Kistner, who served as a Marine Special Operations Forces veteran for nine years, earned the endorsement over two other candidates who had strong support among delegates – Apple Valley resident Erika Cashin and South St. Paul resident Regina Barr. There were reportedly 400 participants in the convention that was held virtually using the online platform Zoom.

Kistner

Also vying for the endorsement were Prior Lake resident Rick Olson and Cottage Grove resident Kerry Zeiler.

“I am honored to have earned your endorsement to be your candidate in 2020,” Kistner said in a Facebook message. “I’d like to thank Regina Barr and Erika Cashin for running a spirited campaign.”

As a Marine, Kistner said he has been on four overseas tours, leading and commanding over 500 personnel conducting counter-terrorism and confronting China/Russia aggression operations.

“Now, our party must unite together to beat Angie Craig in November,” he said in a statement. “These are not ordinary times, and the stakes have never been higher. Our country is facing an unprecedented enemy in the form of this pandemic and a record number of families and small businesses are hurting. I will fight for the people of Minnesota and work with President Trump to get our country and our economy back on track.”

Kistner had endorsements from former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz; U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan; U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher; 2018 Minnesota attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow and state Rep. Steve Drazkowski.

“Kistner’s experience serving in the Marines, and overall candidacy highlights the importance of the voices of a younger generation and will be a welcomed addition to Congress,” said Republican Party of Minnesota of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan. “Kistner’s decisive win proves he is a force to be reckoned with on the campaign trail and is going to be just the person to defeat Angie Craig in November.”

The 2nd District includes all or portions of Dakota, Scott, Wabasha, Goodhue and Rice counties.

Craig won the office by unseating former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis in 2018, two years after the conservative former talk radio host defeated her for an open House seat.

Kistner has posted his political views on his campaign website, www.tylerkistnerforcongress.com/

Economic

Kistner said he is a proponent of the free market and trade agreement proponents and supports “the complete deregulation of the free market system to make it truly free.”

Kistner said he wants more free trade agreements with regional partners while reforming current ones.

“This is an attempt to protect the nation and our businesses from corrupt foreign government practices which hurt our economy while strengthening theirs,” he said.

He said he supports maintaining tax reform passed by the Trump administration and ensuring small business owners and entrepreneurs continue receiving tax breaks to foster their development.

Kistner credited Trump’s agenda with fostering record high economic prosperity and low unemployment levels.

To achieve economic stability again, Kistner said people need to be able to return to work but only by being safe.

Health care

To Kistner, a private, patient-centered health care plan — not constituting a government takeover — is needed to cut premiums and deductibles. He said the country needs to renew its focus on wellness, diagnostic testing and prevention and focus greater on the quality of health care.

“We need to allow patients to become better consumers of health care in a more transparent free market where they can see costs and outcomes,” he said. “We need to give families more control over their health care finances by expanding health savings accounts, making premiums tax deductible for individuals, and allowing for greater portability.”

To Kistner, insurers need to be allowed to compete across state lines to give people more health care options. He said the U.S. needs to allow European and Canadian pharmaceutical companies to safely sell to American consumers.

Education

Kistner supports more state control over education.

“This will enable school districts to address local education issues without seeking federal permission to do so,” he said. “I am completely in favor of all types of school options — public, voucher, charter, parochial, private, etc.,” he said. “Every parent should have the choice to send their child to any school they so choose.”

Spending

Kistner said he wants to reign in spending and cut national debt. He plans to release more detailed spending plans at a later date.

National security

According to Kistner’s website, he believes the U.S. has a “responsibility to maintain a security presence globally to protect freedom and U.S. interest. This forward presence helps us keep our enemies off American shores.”

To him, Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are looking to undermine U.S. influence and power across the globe while enhancing their offensive nuclear, cyber and space capabilities.

“We need to support the funding of our military and ensure that funding goes to the right places to enhance our military and national security,” he said. “Our focus needs to be on the increase of our defense forces and cyber securities to ensure we maintain a clear strategic advantage.”

Social issues

Kistner said he is “100% pro-Second Amendment” and opposes gun-restriction laws.

“We don’t need more gun control in America,” he said. “We need gun education and stronger mental health awareness.”

He said he opposes abortion and supports prohibiting federal funding of abortion services by cutting Title X funding to Planned Parenthood.

“I would vote to cut off all federal funding to the organization,” he said.

Kistner criticizes Craig

Kistner said Craig is partly to blame for the Democratic Party’s broken promises over the last two years. To him, the party has little to show recently except for impeaching and investigating the Trump administration.

Perhaps Kistner’s biggest issue with Craig, however, is what he sees as her willingness to advance special interests and lobbyists.

— Sun Thisweek and the Associated Press contributed to this report


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Local hospital officials: Expect fewer face-to-face appointments after COVID-19

Local hospital officials believe the health care changes brought by COVID-19 will forever alter health care delivery.

The comments came during a health care roundtable hosted Thursday by 2nd Congressional District Rep. Angie Craig, DFL-Minnesota. The briefing was intended to provide updates on the implementation of federal relief packages and protecting front-line workers. Discussion came the same day Gov. Tim Walz extended Minnesota’s stay-at-home order until May 18.

Northfield Hospital and Clinics President and CEO Steve Underdahl told Craig doesn’t expect virtual health care to significantly diminish once the pandemic passes. Instead, he believes providers will question the necessity of face-to-face appointments.

Underdahl said a limiting factor in virtual visits could be the divide between broadband access in exurban Northfield compared to the surrounding rural area.

Underdahl added that NH+C has made progress on testing but has been experiencing blowback from the community for not doing enough tests. In response to that, he said NH+C is following Minnesota Department of Health testing guidelines

The health system is forgoing elective surgeries to focus on responding to COVID-19 and preventing transmission of the disease. Underdahl said although this is necessary, it is financially unsustainable over the long term. To combat that dramatic drop off in revenue, the health care system has successfully requested federal funding.

In addition, Underdahl has noticed an increase in 911 calls as people who were wary of being seen for non-respiratory illnesses are starting to become more comfortable in doing so.

Emergency medicine doctor Deepi Goyal, chief medical officer for the Mayo Clinic Health System in southeast Minnesota, credited the governor’s relatively early implementation of a stay-at-home order as to why the state has seen a slower spread of COVID-19 than other states.

He spoke highly of the testing work the Mayo Clinic has done. The hospital system struck a deal with the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic to test as many as 20,000 people per day.

Mayo has seen a 40% decrease in volume when factoring in virtual care. In the wake of this extensive revenue loss, Goyal believes that hospital payments will be critical, especially as care systems have rapidly pivoted to treat coronavirus.

That focus has been deemed necessary but is pausing research into non-COVID 19 health matters. To combat that change, Goyal suggested health organizations continue receiving National Institutes of Health funding and approve cost breaks for others who haven’t received funding. He also called for ensuring widespread broadband is available so patients can connect to telemedicine.

According to those on the call, coronavirus has had an impact on other aspects of their jobs. Burnsville Fire Chief BJ Jungmann said medical emergency calls have decreased, partially due to limited clinic visits and a decrease in vehicle crashes. However, the department is seeing a rise in mental health calls and assaults.

Red Wing C.A.R.E. Clinic Director Julie Malyon said her health care organization is responding to people seeking dental care who are unaffiliated with a dental office, including some in life-threatening situations.

Cottage Grove Fairview Clinic Family Medicine Physician Jennifer Kaiser said video visits are being reimbursed at a higher rate than telephone appointments, andthat health systems can charge the same amount for such appointments as they do for in-person visits. To her, there needs to be a reimbursement shift so health systems can stay alive as they combat the loss in elective surgeries.

Craig, who spent more than 20 years working for a health care manufacturing company, agreed that the pandemic will permanently change the nation’s health care system. To her, the pandemic has exposed the weakness of the fragmented U.S. health care structure.

Also this week, Republican 1st District Congressman Jim Hagedorn led a bipartisan coalition of House members in a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar advocating that the Trump administration utilize the Provider Relief Fund, established by the CARES Act, to provide appropriate support to rural health care providers as hospitals cope with dwindling revenue.

The letter has received support from the Minnesota Hospital Association, Gunderson Health, Avera Health and the Mayo Clinic.

“Initially, $30 billion was expeditiously disbursed from the fund based upon traditional fee-for-service Medicare payments; however, this formula fails to accurately reflect the funding streams for many rural providers,” the lawmakers wrote. “By excluding Medicare Advantage and Medicaid payments, many rural providers did not receive adequate funding to help cover losses. With this in mind, we appreciate the work you and your team are performing to address these issues for future distributions, and we urge you to establish an updated guidance as quickly as possible.”


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Boards temporarily waive penalties for late tax payments

Residents struggling financially due to the novel coronavirus will get a short reprieve this year when tax time rolls around.

Both the Rice and Dakota County Boards of Commissioners this week agreed to waive some penalties for first half property taxes due May 15. While the May 15 deadline is set in state statute and can’t be modified by boards of commissioners, the boards can adjust penalties for late tax payments.

Rice County taxpayers who pay in full by July 30 won’t be penalized, following board action Tuesday.

In Dakota County, taxpayers have until July 15, but only for non-escrowed residential, agricultural, vacant rural, open space, apartment, commercial and industrial property. Taxes paid through an escrow service, and properties classified as utility, railroad, machinery and transmission lines are excluded from the waiver.

Anyone paying their taxes after those dates will be subject to customary penalties.

Rice County Property Tax Administrator Denise Anderson recommended the modification to her board, noting that some area residents have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus, and that this temporary reprieve could give those in need some breathing room.

For others, she asked that they make payments on time.

“All that can pay, please pay, because the schools, the cities and the need your tax dollars,” she said.

Dakota County, in a new release, made a similar statement: “Property owners who are able to pay their property taxes by the due date are encouraged to do so to help support county, school and city responses to COVID-19.”

The Steele County Board of Commissioners approved a similar resolution earlier this month.


After winning a state title in the 800-meter run as a Northfield High School senior, Elizabeth Acheson continued her success as a freshman at the University of Mary. She won a conference title in the 600, and was part of the distance medley relay team that entered the national indoor championships seeded first. (Northfield News File Photo)