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Minnesota News Briefs: Flu cases around the state continue to rise

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news Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MANKATO, Minn. - The number of influenza cases in Minnesota continues to rise...with now more than 900 people hospitalized with the flu.

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Last season, the state saw 552 cases and there were 965 the season before that and 285 three years ago. Southwest Region Minnesota Epidemiologist Brad Krier says the numbers continue to change daily. Krier says he expects the death toll to go up as recent deaths are evaluated. Updated weekly flu numbers are expected to be released later today by the Minnesota Department of Health.

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The increasing number of flu cases statewide is prompting some hospitals and clinics to place restrictions on visitors. On Wednesday, 14 southern Minnesota hospitals implemented such limits. The state Health Department's Kris Ehresmann says if you have flu symptoms, you should stay home. Ehresman adds those with underlying health conditions should be in touch with their health care provider early on. More than 600 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms so far this year in Minnesota--and five people, including two teenagers, have died.

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The Dayton Administration plans to redouble its efforts to speed up the permitting process for businesses in the state. The governor issued an executive order two years ago that called on the DNR and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue permit decisions with 150 days. Chief of Staff Tina Smith told the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce last night the new goal is to deliver permits within 90 days or less. She says the new measure of efficiency will be good for business, good for our environment and "just plain good government." Ninety-day permits will be issued for activities such as storm water projects while the 150-day window will be designated for more complex permits.

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The Sturgeon Lake rest stop off Interstate 35 is back open after a person was found dead in a vehicle late Wednesday afternoon. Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske says the individual left a suicide note warning against opening the vehicle because it contained toxic gases. Roeske says a trooper on the scene may have been exposed to the chemical mixture and was treated at a local hospital and released. A hazardous material team was brought in and the rest stop was decontaminated before re-opening.

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Minnesota-based Supervalu is selling off five of its grocery chains for an estimated $3.3 billion. The deal includes about 900 stores, but Cub Foods is not among them. Supervalu is selling Albertsons, Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's and Star Market stores to an investor group. The company will continue operating as a food wholesaler and retain several grocery chains. Supervalu stock was up in trading today.

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Law enforcement, elected officials and advocates from the Upper Midwest are at a daylong Regional Gun Summit today in Minneapolis. Mayor R.T. Rybak says they all want to reduce gun violence in their communities. Rybak says Minneapolis had a horrendous tragedy at Accent Signage and other communities have seen violence as well. Rybak says they need to figure out ways to prevent mass shootings with assault-style weapons and clips. He and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett have been planning this event for more than a year.

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Authorities have arrested a juvenile male in connection with making threats that prompted officials to close Chaska High School Tuesday morning. The school went into lockdown after the threats were made and buses were diverted. Police did do a sweep of the school and parking lot, and found nothing. School officials are not commenting on details of the threats, fearing copycats.

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A St. Paul man is now charged with second-degree murder in the January 6th shooting of his wife. Thirty-five-year-old Steven Johnson is accused of killing 32-year-old Manya Jewel Johnson and hiding her body in a White Bear Lake garage. The criminal complaint says Johnson admitted to shooting his wife in the head and then using a saw to dismember her body in the shower. He told police he placed the pieces in storage bins and transferred them to a friend's garage without his knowledge. Johnson served 12 years in prison for a 1996 criminal sexual conduct conviction in Anoka County. He remains in the Ramsey County jail on two-million dollars bail.

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A 15-year-old Sleepy Eye student is charged with felony terroristic threats for a posting on Facebook aimed at local schools. Sleepy Eye Police Chief John Schueller says someone in California saw the post last Friday and called police. The shooting threats were directed at public high schools in Sleepy Eye and New Ulm along with the Riverbend Area Learning Center. The schools put extra security precautions in place Monday. The suspect was arrested over the weekend and returned to juvenile detention following Monday's court appearance.

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A Mankato eye doctor charged with sexually assaulting two female patients is on trial this week in Blue Earth County. Todd Gavin is accused of having the women remove their clothing and examining their breasts during their eye appointments. Gavin's attorney claims he was just being a good doctor.

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Police in St. Cloud are investigating the second pedestrian-vehicle crash in the city this week. Officers say 25-year-old Robert Baker was crossing Highway 23 last night when he was struck by a car. Baker suffered severe but non-life threatening injuries and was taken to St. Cloud Hospital. Witnesses told police Baker crossed on a red light and the vehicle had a green light. Charges are not expected against the driver. Early Monday, a 27-year-old Waite Park man was hit by a car in front of the Red Carpet bar in downtown St.Cloud. A 1994 Ford Taurus was left abandoned in the middle of the street.

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The University of Minnesota will receive full funding from the state legislature for exceeding five performance goals set in 2011. The U of M will get more than four-point-eight-million dollars in state aid that was withheld. Legislators called for increases in financial aid, degrees awarded, undergraduate graduation rates, research and development expenditures and expenditures funded by private businesses. The "U" was required to meet three of the five measures - and exceeded all five. The funding is being used to support faculty, staff and programs.

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