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Ramsey County confronting some 200 employees in violation of vaccination policy; most are in sheriff’s office

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Ramsey County confronting some 200 employees in violation of vaccination policy; most are in sheriff’s office

Nearly a third of the Ramsey County sheriff’s office employees are in violation of the county’s policy to either get vaccinated against the coronavirus or be tested weekly, county officials said Tuesday.

The county’s policy went into effect Nov. 1 for its roughly 5,000 employees who are either permanent, temporary, intermittent or seasonal. Under the policy, employees who do not comply could face a five-day suspension starting Feb. 14, County Manager Ryan O’Connor told the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

According to the county, nearly 94 percent of the employees have certified to their vaccination status, with 82 percent of them providing proof that they are fully vaccinated, which means they’ve taken two shots.

As far as actual numbers, 276 employees have not certified their vaccination status with the county, O’Connor said. Of those employees, 24 said they are fully vaccinated and uploaded proof of vaccination, but did not certify. Another 19 intermittent employees are not working, but said they would certify their status if called upon to work. Another 51 employees are on leave status.

That leaves 182 remaining employees who have not certified their status, with 134 from the sheriff’s office, according to O’Connor.

“So we are seeing a localized challenge of compliance at this point,” he said. “We continue to work directly with the sheriff and his leadership team to seek compliance.”

Ann Feaman, Ramsey County’s human resources deputy director, wrote in a Tuesday update to the county’s executive team that all departments have reported that they either issued written reprimands to employees who remain out of compliance or they are in the process of doing so this week “with one exception — the sheriff’s office.”

“I have not heard anything official from the sheriff’s office except that they acknowledged receipt of HR’s message,” she wrote.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.

Allison Schaber, president of the Ramsey County Deputies’ Federation, said Tuesday night that it supports the policy, “while recognizing that it gives our employees the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated or get tested.” However, she said, Tuesday was the first the federation heard of the scope of the noncompliance with the county policy.

“So for them to jump right to a five-day suspension without prior notice of noncompliance, we feel is excessive and out of step with progressive discipline,” she said.

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On the Minnesota-Canada border, the water just keeps coming

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On the Minnesota-Canada border, the water just keeps coming

CANADIAN BORDER — When many people think of a flood, they imagine a rush of water that comes up fast, wreaks havoc, and then subsides quickly to reveal the damage done.

But in the water world that residents along Minnesota’s border lakes with Ontario are living this spring, the floodwaters came up weeks ago and just keep getting higher, expected to surpass record levels in coming days.

It may be into July before water levels drop back close to normal as the Rainy River watershed continues to spill out of its boundaries, with flooding occurring from just north of Lake Vermilion to Lake of the Woods and beyond.

The flood of 2022 this week eclipsed the modern record flooding event set in 2014, according to the National Weather Service in Duluth, and border lakes will likely set records in the next week or two, topping even 1950 and 1916 events.

“It will take a long time for these levels to decrease once they peak, and those experiencing flooding should be prepared for weeks of high water levels into June,” the Weather Service noted Thursday.

The good news is that the heavy rains of April and early May slowed some. And far upstream, some rivers have crested and have begun to fall slowly from flood stage, including the Basswood, Vermilion and Kawishiwi. All are still well above normal, however.

The bad news is that the Weather Service is forecasting a good chance of strong thunderstorms across the region this weekend, which could produce another 1-3 inches of new rainfall. And, even without more rain, there is still far more water coming into Crane, Namakan, Sand Point, Kabetogama, Rainy and Lake of the Woods than can get out of each lake, and water levels for each are forecast to continue rising.

“We’re entering a very active weather pattern. The outlook is not good,’’ said Joe Moore, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth. Moore said above-average rainfall is expected through June.

On Thursday, Namakan Lake and connected Kabetogama Lake were at 1,122.0 feet above sea levels — 17.7 inches above the 2014 peak level. A rise of another 5-7 inches is expected by June 1 with continued rises into mid-June possible. At this rate, Namakan Lake will reach the record high level of 1,122.8 feet set in 1916.

Rainy Lake is currently at 1,111.7 feet, which is 4 inches above the 2014 peak. A rise of 11-13 inches is expected by June 1 with high water likely into at least mid-June. At this rate, Rainy Lake is expected to break the record high level of 1,112.95 feet set in 1950.

Water on Thursday was flowing into Rainy Lake 28,000 cubic feet per second faster than it can go out, and it was entering Lake of the Woods 25,000 cubic feet per second faster than it can get out.

The flood of 2022 has been caused after heavy rains fell on top of deep snow on frozen ground in April, creating an unprecedented runoff in volume and speed. More rain in early May compounded the problem, and the lakes and rivers along the waterway spilled their banks.

Sandbagging continues around homes, cabins, resorts and other businesses near the lakes. Local, state and federal government agencies and the Minnesota National Guard have been working to help.

MOST RESORTS AT LEAST PARTIALLY OPEN

Somehow, many businesses remain open, including resorts, taking advantage of any high ground they have and sending anglers out to fish on flooded lakes. It takes more work to launch and land boats every day with docks flooded or destroyed, but the fishing has been good.

“The water is winning right now. But we’re putting up a good fight,’’ said Tracy Lindstrom at Northern Lights Resort on Kabetogama.

So far, the resort has been able to remain open, with only three of their 14 cabins out of commission due to flooding. But they were sandbagging until dark Wednesday night and were up early Thursday trying to keep their sandbag dikes from collapsing.

“We’ve got great guests here. We’re trying to do what’s best for them right now. That’s the focus,’’ Lindstorm said.

John Stegmeir, a Kabetogama Township supervisor, said there was a 20-person emergency management team from St. Louis County attempting to save buildings at two resorts Thursday. Meanwhile, a 20-person Minnesota National Guard crew has been working this week filling sandbags at the town hall, with another 20-person crew set to arrive today.

“We had big problems with the wind (Wednesday) and we were losing sandbags; they were collapsing with that wave action,’’ Stegmeir said. “There may be some places where we just can’t keep up, can’t keep the water out. … They are managing it by priorities now, what can be saved and what can’t.”

CAMPSITES FLOODED, DANGEROUS DEBRIS

Many campsites in Voyageurs National Park and upstream in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are impacted by the flooding and campers with reservations are warned to call ahead to make sure their site is usable. Many boat landings are also flooded, although some are still usable.

As of Thursday, more than 40 campsites and houseboat sites in Voyageurs were closed, many inundated by rising lakes.

Debris, from uprooted trees to large pieces of docks, continues to be a major issue across the region, with boaters warned to go slow. No-wake rules have been put into effect near shorelines in an effort to reduce the impact of erosion.

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Katelynn Berry: The Missing Persons Report

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Katelynn Berry: The Missing Persons Report

Katelynn Berry was a young woman who loved to get out and spend time with friends, even if it meant she had to walk somewhere from her apartment, which was a small renovated space above her father’s workshop. Katelynn’s friends and family didn’t think too much of her disappearance at first because it was so common for her to go a few days without answering her phone or texts. But as time went on, her parents grew worried that something may have happened to her.

Hank and Carmell Berry contacted Katelynn’s friends to ask if she had reached out to them during this time. No one had been in contact with Katelyn. A missing person report for Katelynn Berry was issued on December 31, 2021. The police working the case determined that she had last been seen at her apartment on December 21st, just 10 days prior. After conducting a thorough search of Berry’s apartment, the police determined that Katelynn had left her home without identification, her purse, or a coat.

This further concerned the girl’s parents and a search for Berry was launched. Carmell and Hank surmised that Katelyn likely had to go outside for something and did not expect to remain there. Her lack of a coat suggests that she intended to come back inside immediately but wasn’t able to for some reason. It remains unknown whether Katelynn may have locked herself out of her apartment, met someone outside, or left for another reason.

Body Located Fitting the Description of Katelynn Berry

The Sidney police searched the area for almost a month without success and by this time, the Berry parents were certain the news wouldn’t be good if they ever did find Katelyn Berry. On January 20, 2022, a volunteer search party had come in to assist and located a human body consistent with what they knew of Katelynn Berry. The body was transported to the medical examiner’s office where a full autopsy was performed.

It was determined that Katelynn died of hypothermia after being outside without proper cold-weather attire for a short period of time. It is not currently clear why the police search of the same area weeks prior did not reveal Berry’s remains, but the later volunteer search did.

Parents of Berry Still Don’t Have Answers

Katelynn’s mother and father went through the next several weeks in a daze, unsure of how their daughter had gotten outside and why she wasn’t able to go back inside for her coat. They suspected something terrible must have happened and that’s why Katelynn left the house, or perhaps Katelynn somehow went outside for something and couldn’t get back into the apartment. No evidence gathered by law enforcement during the investigation indicated the manner in which Katelynn lost her life.

Katelyn Berry’s Life

The Berry gave birth to their daughter Katelynn on February 1, 1995. She quickly grew into a smart young woman, finding great joy in reading, writing, and school in general. Katelynn was a passionate academic and later earned her degree at Northland Technical College. Her excellent grades garnered her a place in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and in her spare time, Katelynn liked to read, listen to loud music, and watch races with her father Hank.

About The Katelynn’s Voice Foundation

Katelynn Berry’s parents used their experience to create the Katelynn’s Voice Foundation, which is a scholarship program and non-profit organization dedicated to helping high school students who deal with the impacts of being diagnosed with a mental illness. The Foundation is currently active and recently paired with The American Legion to host annual mental health and addiction, awareness fundraiser.

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DJ LeMahieu confident he can avoid trip to injured list

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DJ LeMahieu confident he can avoid trip to injured list

ST. PETERSBURG — DJ LeMahieu was able to hit after Thursday night’s Yankees win and is fairly confident he will be able to avoid the injured list.

“I don’t want to get too excited, but it’s definitely felt better as the day has gone on,” LeMahieu said. “I think that cortisone finally just took.”

LeMahieu had a cortisone shot in his left wrist on Tuesday. Before Thursday’s game he said the wrist had not improved enough. He admitted he might need to go on the IL. Thursday night, he was not available off the bench and the Yankees had just catcher Kyle Higashioka available.

“DJ was not available. Although it sounds like he’s doing a lot better in literally the last two hours,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “So we’ll see where we’re at. Kind of get together again tonight and see where we’re at in the morning.”

HICKS SCRATCHED

Aaron Hicks felt his right hamstring tighten during Wednesday’s game against the Orioles in the Bronx, but still tried to play Thursday. He had to be scratched less than an hour before first pitch, but he thinks he will be able to play on Friday.

“I definitely feel like I’ll be able to be there tomorrow and that’s what I’m planning on doing,” Hicks said.

The center fielder said he first felt it running to first base Wednesday. Boone said he asked Hicks to try and play Thursday, but after treatment he could not run at full speed.

The Yankees have gone through a bunch of injuries lately. Third baseman Josh Donaldson is on the COVID IL with a respiratory illness. Giancarlo Stanton is on the IL with an ankle injury.

NICE TO MEET YOU, YOU’RE BATTING EIGHTH

Matt Carpenter barely had time to put his bag down when he was called into a hitters meeting. The Yankees signed the former Cardinal and three-time All-Star before Thursday night’s game and when Hicks was scratched, he got rushed into the lineup.

“It was pretty crazy, I think I landed (in Tampa) at 3:20,” Carpenter said. “To be part of a huge win right away is pretty cool.”

Carpenter got hit by a pitch in the sixth and came around to score the Yankees first run of the night.

BRITTON AND GERMAN UPDATE

Zack Britton is expected to throw his first bullpen session since elbow reconstruction surgery on Tuesday, Aaron Boone said. The Yankees manager said he absolutely expects Britton to be back this season.

The lefty reliever was in the clubhouse before Thursday’s game. He has been recovering from left elbow reconstruction surgery in Tampa.

In other injury news, Yankees right-hander Domingo German, who has been rehabbing from a shoulder issue since spring training, has been facing live hitters in batting practice and is “close,” to getting a rehab assignment.

With the Yankees bullpen losing Aroldis Chapman (Achilles), Chad Green (Tommy John) and Jonathan Loaisiga (shoulder), German could possibly be a reinforcement when he is ready.

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