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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL)

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Legislative Update: February 23, 2021

Tuesday, February 23, 2021
 

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Rep. Bahner

Dear Neighbors,

According to data reported as of February 19th, the total vaccine doses administered in the state of Minnesota is 1,095,934 exceeding our goal of 1 million doses! Right now we have about 1/3 with both doses and 2/3 that have received at least 1 dose and 30-40 of those on the waiting list have received the vaccine and a good deal more have appointments set and ready to go. The speed of vaccination is picking up to approximately 100,000 people each week, and there have been a series of online tools that make it easier for eligible individuals to schedule appointments and access the latest news on COVID-19 information.

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The COVID-19 Vaccine Connector Tool 

Curious when it will be your turn? Minnesota has just launched a new tool to make reliable vaccine updates and COVID-19 related information reach you faster and remove the guess work around when you may be next in line.  The COVID-19 Vaccine Connectorwill help Minnesotans find out when, where, and how to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

When you become eligible, the Vaccine Connector will:

  • alert you of your eligibility;
  • connect you to resources to schedule a vaccine appointment; and
  • notify you if there are vaccine opportunities in your area.

As Minnesotans become eligible for the vaccine, they will still make appointments directly through a registered vaccinator at this time. You can find vaccination centers near you here. 

However, this Connector is an easy way for Minnesotans to stay updated about their eligibility and find opportunities to get a shot once it’s their turn. For more information about signing up, eligibility, and more, visit: https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/connector/

Minnesotans unable to sign up online can have family or friends help them sign up online, or call 833-431-2053 for assistance signing up over the phone.

Vaccine Connector  

Vaccine distribution got off to a slow start throughout the nation, but Minnesota is making improvements every week as we receive more doses from the federal government. A new online vaccine locator map is available to help Minnesotans more easily find and connect with local vaccine providers. This map will grow as the federal government sends Minnesota more doses.

Another helpful resource for information about COVID-19 is https://mn.gov/covid19

Town Hall: If You Missed It!

Thank you to all of those who were able to attend the Town Hall event last Saturday. I enjoyed answering your thoughtful questions and seeing you engaged! 

If you were unable to make the event, you can watch a recoded version of the meeting here. As always, please direct any questions you may have to me at rep.kristin.bahner@house.mn

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Plan to Bring More Students Back to Classrooms

As hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases decline and Minnesota makes progress vaccinating educators, Governor Tim Walz announced an update to Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan to press for more middle and high school students to return to the classroom. While some local school districts and students have been in person for some time, the plan asks us to prioritize getting kids back into either a full or hybrid model if they have not already started moving that direction.

Beginning February 22, all middle and high school students can return to the classroom for hybrid or in-person learning. Governor Walz expects all schools to offer their students some form of in-person learning by March 8.  We know kiddos are anxious to get back to school and teachers have greatly missed their students, with vaccinations of staff and safety measures clarified, now is an excellent time see kids back in school as much as possible based on their district circumstances.

In addition to the new health and safety protocols, students and families who are learning in person, in a hybrid learning model, or participating in sports and activities are strongly encouraged to receive a COVID-19 test every two weeks. Families can find locations for free COVID testing on the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.

Approximately 30% of school staff are vaccinated, and more are anticipated to receive the vaccine as we safely open our middle and high schools.

The updated Safe Learning Plan is available here as well as the updated Minnesota Department of Health 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools.

Dr. Osterholm Weighs in on The Pandemic

Dr. Osterholm shared several concerns with the House Health Committee recently, including the emergence of new COVID-19 variants that could mean that the worst of the pandemic is still in front of us. He also stressed the importance of continued mask wearing, physical distancing and avoiding crowds, and discussed the need for individuals to protect their mental health. 

You can watch the presentation here.

Dr. Michael Osterholm also recently recommended a strategy he supports would be to move to a single-dose vaccination process where the second dose is not canceled but postponed to give older and at risk Minnesotans a chance to get vaccinated and receive the vaccination protection more quickly. No decision has been made on this possible strategy and the plan at this time remains for Minnesotans to get both vaccines. With everyone anxious to slow the spread and get our economy and families back on track all options are welcome to increase safety in our communities.

Missing Money/Unclaimed Property

As a result of successful legislation in recent years that is now law, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has developed a secure site that allows Minnesotans to check on their unclaimed property. Common types of unclaimed property can include:

  • Dormant bank accounts
  • Uncashed checks
  • Unclaimed wages
  • Insurance claim payments or benefits
  • Stocks or bonds
  • Safe deposit boxes

The Department is responsible for safeguarding the funds until claimed by the rightful owners. Check to see if you have missing money waiting for you here.

 

MNSure Special Enrollment Period 

Minnesota's health insurance marketplace, MNSure, will be open for a special enrollment period, starting February 16 through May 17, 2021. Life events like moving, having a baby, getting married, or turning 26 allows the special enrollment period to occur. Minnesota residents and families deserve access to quality, affordable health care. It’s critical, now more than ever, for everyone to have insurance. Learn about how to enroll here.

COVID-19 Testing Remains Critical 

Testing remains a critical part of our strategy combating COVID-19, and there are currently more than 20 testing sites located around the state, all of which offer no-barrier access to testing. Make an appointment here.

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Loosening of COVID-19 Restrictions

Last Friday, Governor Walz loosened restrictions on businesses. The new Executive Order, which went into effect on February 13, takes steps to further reopen Minnesota’s economy safely, including:

  • Increasing the “not to exceed” capacity in restaurants to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 50 percent
  • Increasing indoor entertainment “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25 percent
  • Increasing private events and celebrations “not to exceed” capacity to 50, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25 percent
  • Increasing gym and pool “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving maximum capacity at 25 percent, and reducing distancing requirement to 6 feet.
  • Allowing restaurants to stay open until 11 p.m.

Additionally, the White House recently signed a contract for 200 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses. The speed at which the state can administer shots is tied directly to the supply we receive from the federal government, which will help more Minnesotans get vaccinated. Case counts and positivity rates continue to trend downward, too, so there are many reasons to be optimistic. Still, we can’t take our eye off the ball, especially with new, more contagious variants emerging. Be sure to continue wearing a mask around others, practice social distancing, and get tested if you think you might need one.


While we overcome the COVID-19 crisis and create a better Minnesota, I urge you all to stay in touch with me through e-mail, and help make our community a place for unity.

Thank you for the honor of representing our Maple Grove and Osseo residents and families in the Minnesota House! 

Sincerely,

Kristin Bahner

State Representative  

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