Wishing you and yours another week of safety and health. Below you’ll find updates on COVID-19 as well as other information and resources that I hope you’ll find useful.
Please continue to check the City’s COVID-19 website regularly for information on essential services, resources to help during the pandemic, and updates on emergency regulations. If you have questions or concerns, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-673-2211. I also continue to provide real-time updates between newsletters — on our pandemic response and other things — on my official Twitter feed and my Facebook page.
The City’s Elections & Voter Services staff is working hard to keep all voters safe this election year, in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Health and Hennepin County. This includes making it quick and easy for Minneapolis residents to vote by mail. It’s a simple process, and starting tomorrow – Wednesday, May 13 – you can apply online for your ballot. Eligible voters can then expect to receive their ballot in the mail about six weeks before the August primary and the November general election. Voting by mail will help to limit person-to-person contact and the spread of COVID-19. As of now, Minneapolis polling places will be open on Election Day and folks can vote in person if they so choose. Still, I strongly encourage you to consider voting by mail as a way to prevent crowding and keeping your neighbors and yourself safe. Find more information on the City’s ongoing work to keep voters safe during this public health crisis here.
At its meeting last week, the Park Board approved plans to keep several parkways and park roads – including a section of Lake Nokomis Parkway in Ward 11 – open to pedestrians and closed to vehicles at least through June. The Park Board reconfigured the parkways last month to allow for those walking, rolling, and biking to abide by social distancing guidelines that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while still ensuring auto access for residents. The state continues to recommend that people from separate households keep six feet between themselves and others in light of the global pandemic.
The Park Board’s resolution allocates $250,000 to cover costs associated with opened-up parkways, and the closures will remain in effect until that funding is gone. While Park Board staff estimate these funds are enough to last at least until the end of June, they are working to determine a more specific time frame and identifying potential additional funding sources. Park Board staff are also monitoring affected parkways to improve trail experience and reduce costs. Find up-to-date maps of all COVID-19 impacts to Minneapolis parkways here.
The City continues to track the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minneapolis using this online dashboard that shows the total number of confirmed cases in our city, how many people needed hospitalization, how many have recovered, and how many people have died. It also includes those figures for the entire state of Minnesota. Our dashboard sources data from the Minnesota Department of Health, which provides frequently updated statewide data you can review here.
It’s important to note that state health officials have estimated that for every confirmed COVID-19 case in Minnesota, there are many more cases among those who have not been tested. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you have no symptoms. Wearing a cloth face cover helps protect other people in case you are infected and are not showing symptoms, and others’ cloth covers protect you. The CDC website offers simple instructions for making homemade cloth masks with or without sewing.
Join Public Work staff for the final online open house for the draft Transportation Action Plan this Thursday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Read the draft plan and see how to participate in the open house here. This is your final opportunity to connect in real time with Public Works staff, but you can submit input on the interactive Transportation Action Plan website through May 22 to help inform the final plan. This 10-year vision will guide future planning, design and implementation of transportation projects for all people in all the ways they move around. It’s important, and I hope you’ll weigh in as part of this process.
I mentioned this in my last newsletter as well, but consider this a friendly reminder that folks in the Keewaydin and Wenonah neighborhoods may hear low-flying planes soon as part of a planned aerial treatment of the area to eliminate invasive gypsy moths that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) found last year. The MDA will conduct two treatments between now and May 22, with exact dates based on weather conditions and caterpillar developments. The treatment area is southeast of Lake Nokomis, roughly bordered by 53rd Street, Highway 62, 23rd Avenue, and 35th Avenue. Search the MDA’s interactive map to see if your home is within the treatment area.
Gypsy moths are among America’s most destructive tree pests, having caused millions of dollars in damage to Eastern forests. The moths are now threatening the tree canopy in our community. To get rid of the moths, officials will conduct two aerial applications of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk) over the area, spaced five to 10 days apart. Btk is a biological product that is organically certified for use on food crops. It has no known health effects for humans, pets, birds, fish, livestock, bees, and other non-caterpillar insects.
For the gypsy moth treatment to work, it must begin early in the morning. Treatments may begin as early as 5:15 a.m. Residents in and around the treatment area may be awakened on that day by the noise of a low-flying airplane. The treatment product has no known health effects for humans, but residents may wish to stay indoors during the treatment and keep windows closed for a half hour after application. Folks can cover gardens or turn on sprinklers during the treatment if they wish. You may see residue from the treatments, but it does not cause damage to outdoor surfaces – soapy water will remove any residue on outdoor items.
To help area residents stay informed, the MDA has set up an info line at 1-888-545-MOTH where folks can get the latest details about treatment dates and times. The MDA’s website also has information about gypsy moth and control efforts. Residents can sign up for text or email notifications by texting “MDA NOKOMIS” to 468-311 to receive text updates or text “MDA NOKOMIS [your email address here]” to 468-311 to receive updates via email.
A reminder that the Hennepin County Board last month waived late payment penalties for certain property taxpayers through July 15, providing some flexibility beyond the initial due date of May 15. To be eligible, your taxes must not be escrowed with your mortgage payment and you must owe less than $50,000 on May 15 for all properties owned. The state sets payment deadlines and has not approved an outright extension, however counties can choose to waive penalties for late payments. The County asks taxpayers who can pay even a portion by May 15 to do so. Get more information here.
Whether you’re eligible to delay your property tax payment without penalty or not, you may be able to get a property tax refund through the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Homeowners and renters can both qualify based on their income. Find more information here about refund eligibility and how to file.
Now more than ever it’s important to take steps to care for your mental health and reach out to loved ones who need extra support during these challenging times. Interruptions in routine like eating, sleep, daily structure, sense of purpose and relationships has also changed. Any of these factors as well as underlying mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety can impact one’s mental well-being. The pandemic has increased physical and social isolation for many neighbors, and that can be especially difficult for older adults.
If you have an older adult in your life, it’s important to pay attention to their mental well-being (or your own mental well-being especially if you are over 65). The National Foundation for Suicide Prevention suggests a few simple steps:
- Check in regularly by phone or video chat.
- Focus on enjoyable activities allowable during the pandemic such as daily exercise, listening to or playing music, reading, watching favorite shows, puzzles, games, and meditation or prayer.
- Look for activity ideas from AARP and the National Institute on Aging.
The City of Minneapolis has assembled a list of resources highlighting basic needs for older adults and other community members here. The City has also provided $200,000 to community providers from the COVID-19 Emergency Mental Health Fund. Find a list of providers taking new patients of all ages here, and learn more about the City’s COVID-19 Emergency Mental Health Fund here. The Minnesota Department of Health also has a guide on supporting mental well-being during COVID-19.
My office has been working with Mayor Jacob Frey’s office and an interdepartmental City staff team to identify food needs during the COVID-19 crisis, to make sure that everyone is able to stay healthy and fed during the pandemic. We have learned so far that many local food shelves are seeking additional volunteer help, and I wanted to share those opportunities with you in case you’re looking for a way to pitch in:
- Al-Maa’uun Food Shelf (1729 Lyndale Ave N) is seeking help unloading food trucks, sorting and packing food boxes, and packing meal boxes for delivery routes. Volunteers are needed Monday through Saturday for morning, mid-day, and afternoon shifts. Sign up here or call 612-521-1749 for more information.
- Groveland Emergency Food Shelf (1800 Nicollet Ave) is seeking help receiving deliveries, stocking shelves for customers, cleaning and sanitizing, and preparing perishables for composting. Volunteers are needed in the mornings Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Spanish speakers would be especially helpful. Email email@example.com or call 612-871-0277 for more information.
- Heritage Park (1000 Olson Memorial Hwy) is seeking help to drop off food at residents’ doors. Volunteers are needed Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Email dahlberg@UrbanStrategiesInc.org or call 651-230-5255 for more information.
- Little Kitchen Food Shelf (1500 6th St NE) is seeking help packing food bags, distributing food, and managing inventory. Volunteers are needed Monday through Friday in the mornings and evenings. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Salvation Army Center City Office (53 Glenwood Ave). Call 612-659-0711 extension 27 for more information.
- CAPI Food Shelf (5930 Brooklyn Blvd) is seeking help packing food boxes and distributing food to clients via a curbside delivery model. Volunteers are needed Monday through Thursday for morning and mid-day shifts. Hmong and Vietnamese speakers would be especially helpful. Email email@example.com or call 612-767-3682 for more information.
- Good Works Food Shelf (697 13th Ave NE) is seeking help unpacking and packing food boxes and assisting with general services. Volunteers are needed Tuesday and Friday mornings. Spanish speaking volunteers would be especially helpful. Call 612-788-4829 for more information.
While recent blood donations have helped to stabilize the supply after an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations, it’s important to maintain that supply with donations scheduled into the future. You can still safely donate blood amid COVID-19, and healthy individuals are encouraged to schedule appointments now to help folks in need who count on lifesaving blood donations. This need is constant, pandemic or not. Folks can give blood every eight weeks. You can find donation locations and make an appointment through the Red Cross here or Memorial Blood Centers here.
Also, people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. Use of this plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious or life-threatening COVID-19 infections. In coordination with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Red Cross is seeking folks who are fully recovered from COVID-19 to sign up to donate plasma to help current patients. Get more information on COVID-19 plasma donation here.
I’m proud of how connected our community is to its local businesses, and I’m heartened by all the ways neighbors have stepped up to support, promote, and sustain our neighborhood economy during this time. The City continues to call on leaders at the state and federal levels to adequately support local business owners and workers, and we continue to do what we can here with our more limited resources at the local level to lift up these critical community assets. The Southwest Journal recently published a great map and guide highlighting Southwest Minneapolis businesses that have adapted due to COVID-19 but remain open during this pandemic. This resource shows which businesses are still open, and it lets you know the best ways to support and connect with them. I also recommend Nokomis Living business listings, the Tangletown Neighborhood Association small business directory, and WCCO’s curbside pick-up restaurant map for more inspiration on how you can help keep our local businesses running during this difficult time.
With the warmer weather of spring, some neighbors are enjoying time in their yards with outdoor fires. At a time when many folks are concerned about air quality and spending a lot of time at home, it’s extra important to follow the outdoor fire laws in place to keep our neighborhoods safe and livable. If you don’t follow the law, you face fines that start at $200. Our rules state that:
- Outdoor recreational fires are permitted between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
- You must keep your fire small (less than three feet in diameter and two feet high)
- You must postpone a fire when Minneapolis is under an air pollution advisory, because fires release fine particles that contribute to air pollution that can cause serious health concerns (sign up for air quality alerts here)
- You can burn only untreated, unpainted, dry wood – and never cardboard boxes, trash, or debris because the smoke can be toxic
- Fires must be at least 25 feet from a structure or combustible material and in a fire ring or pit with edges more than six inches high
- You must have a hose or fire extinguisher on site
- You must postpone a fire when the wind exceeds 10 miles per hour
- Fires must be constantly attended by someone 18 years or older, and must be completely out before being abandoned
Recreational fires can have serious health impacts, especially for children, older adults, and people with existing health conditions. If neighbors say they are affected, please respect the serious medical harm you could be doing to them and extinguish the fire. It’s also good to let neighbors know in advance when you’re planning a fire, and postponing plans if the wind will blow smoke directly at their home. Learn more about air quality research in Minneapolis here.
For more information on recreational fires or to register a complaint about a recreational fire, call 311 or email Minneapolis311@minneapolismn.gov. To log a complaint about a recreational fire outside 311 hours, call 911. The Fire and Police departments are authorized to extinguish a fire immediately if it violates City ordinances. For the full Minneapolis law on recreational fires, review the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Chapter 178.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) wants to stay connected about the 35W@94 project while we stay at home. Explore the project corridor through a virtual self-guided tour, watch a drone flight to see construction progress, read the project blog or download an activity book to do yourself or with kids. Be sure to view all eight stops on the online self-guided tour to learn about the history of I-35W, project benefits and construction features like the huge water storage tanks being constructed under the road. Each stop along the tour features artwork created by students from Lyndale Community School and Richard R. Green Central Park Elementary School. Start exploring with the virtual self-guided tour, drone videos, and more available here.
As the largest open studio tour in the country, Art-A-Whirl is a signature event for the Minneapolis artists and our creative community as a whole. While folks from across the City typically gather for art, food, and entertainment, this year – the 25th for Art-A-Whirl – organizers are doing things a little differently because of COVID-19. The Art-A-Whirl Online Experience will allow you to find artists, browse their profiles and shops (with shipping and curbside pickup options), and view virtual studio tours and musical performances. The online fun begins at this link on Friday, May 15 at 5 p.m.
Doors Open Minneapolis — the weekend-long event that launched last year to allow the public free, behind-the-scenes access to Minneapolis buildings and venues that are architecturally, culturally, or socially significant – will not go on as planned this weekend. Instead, due to the global health crisis, the second-annual event has been postponed until Sept. 12 and Sept. 13. Get more information here.
In this challenging time for many households, Xcel Energy is offering Minneapolis customers free home energy savings kits that include materials to help you save energy and money while you’re at home. Choose from one of three kit types – they include various combinations of power strips, light bulbs, showerheads, and aerators – and it will arrive in four to six weeks. An LED light can save you more than $55 over its lifetime, while an efficient showerhead can reduce water consumption by up to 10%. In addition, kitchen and bathroom faucet aerators can reduce water and energy costs. Xcel residential customers are eligible to receive one kit per household. Get more information and submit your request here. This offer ends May 26.
One surprising aspect of spending more time at home is realizing how much trash we create simply by living our lives. I know many of our neighbors are interested in taking steps to prevent waste and recycle more, and taking the Hennepin County Zero-Waste Challenge is a great way to help you take an in-depth look at what you buy and what you waste, as well as ways to reduce your impact on our waste stream and planet. The all-online challenge, which runs from May 17 to June 27, outlines more than 100 actions you can take on a one-time or daily basis. Participants can access resources to meet waste reduction goals and receive support along the way. In past years, participants reported reducing their daily waste by nearly one-third! Sign up for the Zero-Waste Challenge today to get started.
Many households have used extra time at home to clean house, and that includes going through clothing, furniture, and other items. Now, after a hiatus due to COVID-19, some donation centers are reopening and once again accepting donations with safety protocols in place:
- Bridging is a nonprofit that helps support housing stability for folks across the Twin Cities and accepts new and gently used basic home essentials including furniture, beds, housewares, linens, lamps, and small appliances
- Arc’s Value Village is a nonprofit that accepts clothing and other household items like backpacks, bikes, cookware, games, decorations, jewelry, furniture, luggage, office supplies, and more (but please keep clothing items separate from others)
Before you drop off donations, check the donation center’s website for a full list of acceptable materials, hours, and instructions for preparing your items in addition to pandemic safety precautions. Please note that wait times may be long as donation centers begin to reopen. And finally, do not dump items outside donation centers when they are not open – donation centers then have to cover disposal costs.
If you or your neighbors are thinking creatively about how to step up to help address community needs during this emergency – from making masks to donating food to supporting local businesses – I want to know about it! I’m compiling stories from our community about ways we’re helping each other, and I need your help to make sure I’m finding them all. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what you, your family, or your group is up to. Thank you!
I’m excited to pick up where we left off with a few new Community Conversations – though, for the foreseeable future, we’ll have to meet virtually. All Ward 11 residents are welcome to join in and share questions, concerns, and ideas at the following times:
If you’re feeling motivated to get more involved in your community during this time, check out your local neighborhood organization for opportunities to get involved in your immediate community: