The surge of COVID-19 cases at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud appears to be waning after reaching a high of 255 inmates with confirmed COVID-19 on Nov. 12.

The uptick in cases infected about 30% of the inmates at the prison — and accounted for nearly 95% of the cases in Minnesota's prison system.

The prison's high was 359 cases in mid-November 2020, which aligned with a surge seen statewide last November, according to Nicholas Kimball, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

As of midday Thursday, the DOC reported 232 confirmed COVID-19 cases at its 11 prison facilities; 218 of those were at St. Cloud prison. The next highest count was eight cases at Lino Lakes.

Calvin Miller, program director at the prison, has attributed the uptick to St. Cloud's being the intake facility for all male offenders entering the system in the state. Since the outbreak began, visiting has been suspended and new admissions are being processed in Faribault.

Kimball said staff and inmates in the DOC system were slated to begin receiving COVID-19 booster shots last week.



Taconite Rock landmark given makeover

Babbitt's Taconite Rock, a focal point of the Iron Range community's shopping and retail center, has been spruced up to create an outdoor sitting area and public space.

The city used a Downtown Streetscapes grant from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation to add pollinator and ornamental gardens, solar lights, benches, landscaping, new flags and a flat slate platform around the 28-ton rock. Sidewalks were also replaced.

The rock was removed from the Peter Mitchell Mine area, home of the first recorded test pit on the Mesabi Range in 1871.

"Babbitt is considered the birthplace of Minnesota's taconite industry, and Taconite Rock is a symbol of our city's mining history," said Andrea Zupancich, the city's mayor.



Hearing planned for Indian Lake proposal

A Dec. 16 public hearing will allow members of the public to hear about and provide input on a proposed management plan for Sibley County's Indian Lake.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is proposing the lake become a designated wildlife lake, which would allow wildlife managers to change water levels to manage habitat conditions. Drawdowns, which temporarily can lower water levels, can help improve water quality by consolidating sediments, removing common carp and restoring submersed aquatic vegetation.

Sixty other lakes around Minnesota have been designated wildlife lakes, which also restricts the use of motorized watercraft during open-water season, which minimizes disturbances to wildlife.

The public hearing will be at 6 p.m. on Dec. 16 at Winthrop City Hall. The comment period for the proposed plan will end on Jan. 18.