Minn. courts temporarily stop late penalties, driver’s license suspensions

The Minnesota Judicial Branch is discouraging the public from making any non-essential visits to court facilities during the outbreak of COVID-19. In an effort to reduce foot traffic in courthouses, the State Court Administrator has taken the following temporary administrative actions, effective Monday, March 16, 2020, for the next 30 days.

  • The Judicial Branch will stop sending out late penalty notices and assessing the late penalties for all citations.

  • For offenses eligible for drivers’ license suspension, the Judicial Branch will halt the automated process by which a person’s license is suspended for failure to appear.

  • The Judicial Branch will stop referring past-due payment cases to the Department of Revenue for collections.

“We are committed to reducing the need for Minnesotans to visit their local courthouses, and are making these changes to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba said.

The temporary changes made to the automated financial collection processes will not adversely affect a defendant’s case. Related financially-connected processing, such as drivers’ license reinstatement and web-based and phone-based payments made through the Court Payment Center, will continue to be processed while these procedures are in effect.

Testing efforts need to be focused, health department says

The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday, March 17, announced that due to a national shortage of COVID-19 laboratory testing materials, the state is forced to make adjustments to its testing criteria to focus on the highest priority specimens, including hospitalized patients. Health care workers and those in congregate living settings such as long-term care will also be given high priority.

MDH sent a message to Minnesota health care providers with the following guidance:

  • Hospitals and health care systems should assess whether they can send specimens to a commercial reference laboratory, and determine their own priorities for testing and assess whether these labs have restrictions.

  • Limit sending specimens to the Minnesota Department of Health to those from hospitalized COVID-19 patients. At this time, MDH can also test ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate settings.

  • Providers should inform all patients with undiagnosed fever and/or acute respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath), even those not able to be tested, that they should self-quarantine for 7 days after illness onset, or 72 hours after resolution of fever (without taking fever-reducing medications), and improvement of respiratory symptoms, whichever is longer. Patients should seek care if their symptoms become severe. They should call ahead to health provider when possible.

  • Patients with symptoms who are not able to be tested should isolate themselves from household and intimate contacts as much as possible. Household and intimate contacts of these individuals should limit their activities in public for 14 days after the incorporating precautions in the home, and monitor for symptoms.

People who have suspect or known cases of COVID-19, but who are not severely ill, should stay home while they recover. If they have severe underlying health conditions or are older adults should contact their health care provider to see if they have additional recommendations for them. If someone develops severe symptoms they should call ahead to their health care provider if possible prior to seeking care.

Allina makes changes to testing, suspends non-essential visits

Following state health department guidelines, Allina Health on Tuesday, March 17, announced no outpatient testing for COVID-19 will be performed in its clinics, urgent cares, everyday clinics and emergency departments. Hospitalized patients and health care providers will continue to be tested.

Other steps to being taken to protect staff and conserve resources, according to a news release:

  • Implementing further visitor restrictions across Allina Health. Beginning Wednesday, March 18, Allina Health will restrict all visitors, with compassionate exemptions available.

  • Canceling classes and events;

  • Suspending all non-essential/non-urgent visits in clinics until further notice. Some visits may be converted to a virtual visit when appropriate;

  • Going to an urgency ranking system in all hospitals for elective surgeries and procedural areas.

Surgeons are reviewing scheduled procedures to determine which can be canceled or rescheduled, the news release states. Patients will be contacted directly.

Washington County parks remain open, fees waived

Washington County Parks remain open to the public while county staff is closely monitoring the situation related to COVID-19 and adjusting operations with the changing conditions. Commissioners waived the parks vehicle permit through March 24 to provide free access to visitors who want to visit any Washington County Park.

All park updates will be posted online at www.co.washington.mn.us/Parks or call

651-430-8370 for information.

DNR cancels in-person Spring Hearings in Wisconsin

The in-person portion of the 72 public meetings known as the Spring Hearings that were to be held in each county on April 13 are canceled, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Conservation Congress announced March 17.

The public will continue to have the opportunity to provide input on the natural resources advisory questions from the DNR, Natural Resources Board and WCC through the online input option. The online input option will be provided through a link that will be posted on the Spring Hearing page and will go live at 7 p.m. April 13. The online version will remain open for three days. Results will be posted as soon as they are available.

Stillwater Lift Bridge, ’Lift & Loop’ celebration postponed

Due to concern for the safety and health of citizens and the uncertainty and restrictions being taken to prevent the spread of COVI-19, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and city of Stillwater have postponed the Lift & Loop celebration planned later this spring in Stillwater. The grand opening and community events had been scheduled on Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16, 2020, in downtown Stillwater and at various locations on the Loop Trail in Minnesota and Wisconsin to celebrate completion of the Stillwater Lift Bridge and Loop Trail.

A new date for the grand opening and celebration will be determined within the next few weeks as officials continue to monitor the pandemic situation. Once a new date is selected, further information will be sent out.

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