ROCHESTER, Minn. – The pandemic postponed the timeline for when futuristic transportation would begin zipping around Rochester. However, we’re now learning we could see autonomous shuttle services in just a few months.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation says shuttle pilots will be launched near the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
Executive Director of MnDOT‘s Office of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV-X) Kristin White says the city is working to bring automated technology to full-sized transit buses in partnership with First Transit, MnDOT, and Destination Medical Center among others.
“These micro shuttles can help support some Rochester transit that’s already successfully launched in the community,” said White.
“We’re also trying to understand the winter weather challenges. We always talk about the winter here in Minnesota, and Rochester is no exception, so maybe these vehicles can help navigate in winter weather climates where other traditional transportation, like transit, may not be able to.”
While the operation was put on hold during the pandemic White does say it allowed for the testing of newer technologies and identifying infrastructure improvements needed to safely test on public roadways.
So, if all goes well, she says this summer we should see a soft launch on Rochester streets.
White added, “A soft launch where we test out some of the kinks, make sure we have no one in the vehicles or around them. We have all engineers and the safety experts around them and we’re hoping to do that this summer, July/August. Then, potentially if that goes well, we’ll be able to pilot the technologies with people in and around the DMC, the Mayo Clinic area this August.”
If the timeline is accurate for an August pilot launch there will be a person inside monitoring the vehicle’s progress so it won’t be 100% without an operator.
Work is also underway for the first CAV corridor planning effort with communities along Highway 52 from Rochester to St. Paul.
As vaccinations become more widely available for people in the United States and travel starts picking up, many people have started sharing their simple white vaccination cards on social media as prized new possessions.
With some destinations, cruise lines and venues already requiring travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19, keeping that record is key. In New York, for example, proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will be required for entry into large venues or catered events when they are allowed to reopen at reduced capacity Friday. Proof will be required at events with more than 100 people, so anyone having a wedding or Sweet 16 with more attendees will have to ask guests for evidence that they are complying with the rules.
There are already a number of vaccination “passport” initiatives underway that would make vaccination status easy to share digitally. Clear, a biometric screening program used in airports across the country, and the technology company IBM have created their own passes, for instance. And last week, New York became the first state to introduce a digital tool to allow people to easily show that they have either tested negative or been inoculated against the virus in order to gain entry to some events and venues.
But until such measures are taken more widely across the country, you’ll want to hang onto that little white card.
Here’s everything you need to know about your vaccine record, why it’s important and how to keep it safe.
What’s on your vaccine card?
The vaccine card, given after your first shot and then updated if your vaccine requires a second one, includes the vaccine manufacturer, the dose numbers and the date and location each was administered, according to Alex Brown, a spokeswoman for Walgreens, which is administering vaccinations at more than 5,000 stores nationwide.
Walgreens, like other providers, is looking to make its records digital, Brown said, but for now it is still handing out cards.
Walmart and Sam’s Club are already offering their patrons digital access to their vaccine records through both the Health Pass by Clear and the CommonHealth and CommonPass apps from the Geneva-based nonprofit the Commons Project Foundation.
“Our goal is to give customers vaccinated at Walmart free and secure digital access to their vaccine record and enable them to share that information with third parties seeking to confirm their vaccination status,” John Furner, the chief executive officer and president of Walmart U.S., said in a statement.
What happens if I lose my card?
Getting a new card is easy enough if you got vaccinated at a pharmacy like Walgreens. Brown said that people who lose their cards should return to where they were vaccinated and pharmacy employees can print out new cards from the patients’ electronic records.
Vaccinations are also tracked by state health departments, so you can reach out to your state’s agency to get a replacement card, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency lists contact information for the Immunization Information System in each state, which tracks vaccinations, on its website.
How should I safeguard my card?
Start by taking a picture of it with your phone, so you’ll have the information in your photo library, and emailing it to yourself as backup, said Dr. Uchenna Ikediobi, an assistant professor of general internal medicine and infectious diseases at Yale University.
Laminating your card will make it more durable if you’re planning to carry it around in your wallet, although there has been some concern about lamination because it would prevent information from future booster shots from being added. But Ikediobi said that this “may be a moot point if new cards are issued after a booster shot, as would seem likely.”
A number of companies have jumped in to offer free lamination. Staples is offering free lamination of vaccine cards for those who have gotten their doses, according to Jocelyn Moruzzi, a spokeswoman for the office goods retailer. The offer is valid at all of the company’s U.S. locations with the offer code 81450 and does not yet have an end date.
“Customers began seeking out ways to protect their COVID-19 vaccine record cards, knowing they will likely be important to have on hand in the future,” Craig Grayson, vice president of print and marketing services for Staples, said in an email Wednesday. “Leveraging our existing capabilities in store felt like a natural way to provide a free solution.”
People can also get their completed vaccine cards laminated for free at Office Depot and OfficeMax stores nationwide using the code 52516714 through July 25.
Ikediobi also recommends keeping the card in a safe place, as you would your passport, rather than carrying it around. “It does not necessarily need to be on your person at all times,” she said.
Do I need my card to travel?
In some cases, yes. Some destinations and cruise lines have started requiring that travelers be fully vaccinated before they travel. As of March 26, fully vaccinated Americans who can present proof of vaccination can visit Iceland, for example, and avoid border measures such as testing and quarantining, the country’s government said.
The cruise line Royal Caribbean is requiring passengers and crew members 18 or older to be vaccinated in order to board its ships, as are Virgin Voyages, Crystal Cruises and others. These companies will restart cruise operations this spring and summer. The companies are not yet operating cruises out of U.S. ports because the CDC has yet to give them the guidelines they’ll need to follow.
For the moment, airlines are not requiring vaccinations for travel. But the idea has been much talked about in the industry. In an interview with NBC Nightly News recently, Ed Bastian, the chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines, said that proof of vaccination will likely eventually be required on international flights, but whether that is paper proof or a digital vaccine passport, is unclear.
Will New York require a vaccine passport?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced the launch of Excelsior Pass, a free app that will allow businesses to scan a code to confirm whether someone has been vaccinated or tested negative for the coronavirus. To sign up, New York residents should visit the Excelsior Pass website, where they will be asked to enter their name, date of birth and ZIP code. A pass — a QR code that can be scanned by businesses — will automatically be generated using data from state vaccination records or testing lab data.
No one is required to download Excelsior Pass, according to a spokesman for the governor’s office. The pass generated on the website can be printed out, or you can show your vaccine card or evidence of a negative test result instead.
Will the Biden administration require a vaccine passport?
Among the Biden administration’s executive orders aimed at curbing the pandemic is one that asked government agencies to “assess the feasibility” of producing digital versions of vaccination documents. But while the government is involved in these efforts, the administration has said that it would not be passing a federal mandate or distributing its own vaccine passport.
In a White House COVID-19 news conference Monday, Andy Slavitt, the acting director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that “unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens.”
“We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do,” he said. “What’s important to us — and we’re leading an interagency process right now to go through these details — are that some important criteria be met with these credentials,” including equitable access and privacy and security concerns.
Are there other benefits?
Yes. Businesses across the country, from bars to marijuana dispensaries, have been offering perks to those with a COVID-19 vaccination card. Krispy Kreme, for instance, said last week that for the rest of the year, it would give one free glazed doughnut per day to anyone who presents proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
Michael Tattersfield, the company’s chief executive, told Fox News that as vaccinations have accelerated across the country, “We made the decision that, ‘Hey, we can support the next act of joy,’ which is, if you come by, show us a vaccine card, get a doughnut any time, any day, every day if you choose to.”
Rochester, Minnesota’s third-largest city, appears frequently on rankings of the country’s most livable cities. Factors such as civic engagement, affordable housing, a strong regional economy and great education options have helped the community stand out for years.
Now, Rochester is looking to build on that appeal by positioning itself as a great home for the post-pandemic workforce as many employees feel more freedom to choose their home untethered from their work locations.
“Rochester could become a city of choice for people who can work anywhere,” said Patrick Seeb, executive director of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, known as DMC. “We don’t have the mountains of Bozeman or Boulder perhaps, but there are other things we do have that could become compelling to people, including being the front door of the number one hospital in the world.”
That hospital is the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. Rochester was founded in 1854 as a stagecoach stop, but soon welcomed the man who would largely determine its future, Dr. William Mayo. He arrived in 1863 as the examining surgeon for Union Army recruits. After the war, Mayo and his two sons grew their medical practice in the area, attracting doctors from all over the world to create an unmatched collaborative approach to disease and healing.
Rochester also is home to the largest public-private economic development partnership in Minnesota history with the DMC project. The $5.6 billion plan includes $585 million in funding from the state over 20 years, $3.5 billion pledged from the Mayo Clinic and an additional $2.1 billion in planned investments.
With Phase I accomplished, DMC has already reported creating more than 7,000 jobs and attracting nearly $10 of private investment for every $1 of public funds. With its first five years behind it, the DMC is charging ahead, rebounding from the pandemic and using it as an opportunity to further support innovation in the city.
Seeb said that though COVID-19 and the national lockdown created a bit of a setback for DMC’s initial objectives for the year, the focus remains on transforming the experience of being in Rochester. “This is all about creating the best experience so that people will choose to come to Rochester to live here, to work here, to receive treatment here,” he said. “Our areas of focus remain economic diversification, housing affordability, main street resurgence, innovation, local entrepreneurs and developing the capacity of our minority- and women-owned businesses.”
Tom Fisher, director of the Minnesota Design Center at the University of Minnesota and a DMC board member, said pandemics impact the way people live and move in society.
Fisher, interviewed on DMC’s newly launched podcast “Urban Evolution,” said the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing a rebalancing of the physical and the digital. “As much as 40% of the workforce right now is working full-time from home,” he said. “The technology to do this existed before the pandemic, but what pandemics do is rapidly accelerate us into the future. After the pandemic, we’ll see these ways of living and working becoming dominant model for many people.”
Rochester certainly isn’t alone in looking to attract remote workers. Urban studies expert Richard Florida described the shift in where and how people work at a recent Future of Cities event. For the first time, he said, people are asking themselves deep questions about how they want to live and work, with the understanding they have more choices today in how to organize their lives.
“It changes the terms in which cities, suburbs and rural areas compete,” Florida said. “They no longer can compete just by attracting companies and jobs, because people can work remotely. They have to compete for people.” This, he explained, is a new development in how cities, rural areas and suburbs will need to develop their economies.
Fisher is enthusiastic about the DMC plan to strengthen Rochester’s attractiveness as a vibrant urban center focused on health and wellness. On the podcast, Fisher said: “The opportunity here is for people to make decisions about where they live and work based on quality of life. The opportunity for Rochester as America’s city for health as its brand [can attract] not just start-up companies that want to be near the Mayo Clinic for business reasons, but also for people who are looking for a very healthy city to live in and a high quality of life.”
The downtown district is already experiencing significant revitalization, that includes new living options as well as hospitality and new, reimagined public spaces. And more than 100 parks covering five square miles blanket the city with outdoor spaces for running, walking and biking. Eighty-five miles of paved trails wind through the city.
Seeb summed it up nicely: “Cost of living, recreation, education, proximity to urban amenities, an international airport and, of course, the obvious health care, make Rochester an attractive choice for remote workers. Our quality of life can’t be beat.”
The Mayo Clinic is home to a larger—and now largely unknown—collection of medical wax models, but if you visited the Mayo Medical Museum on a school field trip as a child, you will remember seeing these fascinating artifacts! Created by in-house artists from c.1924 to 1983, they were used by Mayo physicians to illustrate medical conditions and surgical procedures at medical meetings around the country. This presentation will feature the history of the models and how they influenced the development of the Mayo Medical Museum in the mid-to-late Twentieth Century.
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Google will be opening its first office in Minnesota later this year in Rochester.
As part of a partnership with Mayo Clinic, Google will be opening up an office at Collinder Coworking in the Conley-Maass-Downs building in downtown Rochester.
“Part of what drew us to partner with Google was our shared cultures of collaboration,” said chief information officer of Mayo Clinic Cris Ross in a press release. “While the pandemic has accelerated usage of many valuable forms of remote collaboration and virtual health services, it has also caused us to truly appreciate in-person experiences and connection. We’re excited to have this physical space designed to deepen our bond and facilitate innovation, where Google engineers will work side by side with Mayo Clinic researchers, physicians, information technology staff and data scientists, to apply advanced computing techniques to health care problems.”
While officials say the office will be opening later this year, no specific timetable has been established due to COVID-19 guidelines.
“Google putting down roots in Minnesota will provide sustained economic opportunity not only for the Rochester area, but for our entire state,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a release. “This partnership with the Mayo Clinic reinforces Minnesota’s reputation as a welcoming state for innovation and economic opportunity. We welcome Google to our community.”
Sick of sitting at home? Looking for something fun to do with your family? If you’ve got a bad case of cabin fever you should make plans to pack up your family and head up to Stillwater to check out this 114’ x 72’ Ice Palace/Maze. 1,500 blocks of ice were used to create what is said to be the largest Ice Maze in the country. Organizers say it is a safe and fun outdoor family winter event.
According to their website, the maze features 1/2 mile of passageways and a giant 36-foot slide at the exit. Refreshments like hot chocolate and s’mores will be available and there is an ice bar serving alcoholic drinks.
As long as the weather cooperates, the maze will be open from Jan. 22 – Feb. 28th. Hours of operation will be 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM on Tuesdays through Fridays and noon to 10:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Only 100 people will be allowed in at a time and masks will be required.
Tickets are $15 for ages 13 and up, $10 for ages 5-12, and free for children under 4. Tickets are available online and at the gate. Free parking will be available.
Travel Tip – If you’re going to Stillwater, hit up Acapulco. They have amazing Mexican food and gigantic beers!
Jessica Schmitt enjoys skating several times a week with her 10-year-old daughter, Lucy.
“The oval at Soldiers Field is well maintained and very atmospheric, especially at night with the Christmas lights,” she said. “For nighttime skating, we recently learned how to turn on the huge overhead lights, too, so that makes it feel safe. Ultimately, you really can’t beat the views of the city from Soldiers Field!”
Schmitt said she appreciates the equitable access to this free activity, and it’s helped her learn to enjoy Minnesota’s coldest season.
“I like the feeling of adventure when I’m out skating,” said Maggie Panetta, who grew up a few blocks away from Soldiers Field.
Panetta has been skating since her mom brought her to the rink when she was 4. She skated with the Rochester Figure Skating Club at the Recreation Center for 14 years and became a competitive synchronized skater. She currently coaches all ages.
Phirum Pheak, who learned to skate at the Rec Center with a walker when he was 11, likes to be adventurous with his skating. In addition to warm clothes and skates, he brings shovels and brooms on his outings.
“I really enjoy natural ice the best,” he said.
Cascade Lake and Chester Woods Park are two of Pheak’s favorite places to skate. He’ll shovel his own course.
“It took a lot of manual labor, but it was worth it,” he said. “The maintenance is much easier than the creation … The rink was shaped to how the land laid, and gives it an organic feel.”
Southern Woods Park Studio Rink, 4982 11th Ave. SW (exclusively for studio skating — no hockey allowed)
Where can I get skates?
While skates are offered online and at most big-box sporting goods stores, several local businesses in Rochester sell them, too. Ama la Vita, formerly known as Blades to Ballet, in the Hillcrest Shopping Center, has a great selection of figure skates and also sells used skates. The Sports Headquarters on South Broadway also offers skates, including a selection of hockey skates and used skates. Discount stores like Savers or Salvation Army sometimes have skates.
Skating tips from a pro
If you are a new skater, please wear a helmet. It’s not embarrassing to protect yourself!
You should always keep your blades dry after skating. Use any household towel or yoga towel to dry your blades right away.
You’ll want soakers (soft guards) to help soak up moisture and protect the blades when you’re not skating. Keeping your blades exposed can be dangerous. Hard guards are used for walking around off the ice, not for storing skates.
Sharpen new skates right away, and old skates at least once a year. Bumpy, outdoor ice can damage blades over time.
Thin or microfiber socks are a must. Avoid thick wool or heavy-duty socks, which can make your skate feel too tight, leading to cold feet and blisters.
Tie your skates tightest at the ankle crease, keeping it snug on the ankle for support.
You should disinfect your toothbrush because high amounts of COVID live in your mouth.
Brazilian researchers published their findings on how non-disinfected toothbrushes could enable coronavirus spread in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in December. In the study, researchers concluded that toothbrushes “act as reservoirs for microorganisms, favoring the transmission of diseases in heathy and sick individuals.” This is especially concerning during the COVID pandemic because an earlier May study found that high viral loads of coronavirus can be found in the saliva, nasopharynx, and oropharynx—even in asymptomatic patients.
“Thus, disinfection of toothbrushes and hygiene of the oral cavity are important to control the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, especially in asymptomatic individuals or in those who await the test result for COVID-19,” the researchers of the December study explained. And for more on coronavirus and your mouth, If You Notice This in Your Mouth, You Could Have COVID, Experts Warn.
You can disinfect your toothbrush in store-bought mouthwash.
The researchers also referenced another study, published July 2020 in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, which found that certain mouthwashes could actually reduce the viral load of coronavirus in saliva and transmission. According to this study, your mouthwash has to be an antiseptic solution containing ethanol and essential oils, like Listerine Cool Mint.
Disinfecting toothbrushes in this solution may help slow the spread of COVID, according to the researchers of the December study. However, while the previous study found that mouthwash only needed to be held in the mouth for 30 seconds to reduce the viral load present, these researchers say that a toothbrush needs to be immersed in the solution for 20 minutes, as toothbrushes are able to hold on to viral loads longer “due to the presence of bristles and moisture.” And for more guidance on staying safe from COVID, If You Have This Mask, Get a New One Now, Experts Say.
The researchers laid out a six-step process to best disinfect your toothbrush.
Just dipping your toothbrush in a mouthwash solution isn’t going to completely protect you from COVID. Instead, the researchers laid out six steps you should consider following when completing this hygiene task.
The first thing you need to do before touching your toothbrush is to wash your hands with soap and water or disinfect them with hand sanitizer that is at least 70 percent alcohol-based. After that, you can disinfect your toothbrush handle with 70 percent alcohol for one minute. Once those two steps are done, you can brush your teeth. When you are done brushing, you should wash the brush and disinfect the handle with 70 percent alcohol again for one minute. Your mouthwash solution comes next, and you should leave only your brush head immersed in this for 20 minutes. After that, you should let your brush dry and then, preferably, store it away from others. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
And if you’ve had COVID, you should throw your toothbrush away.
Anthony Cardillo, MD, an ER specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care in Los Angeles, told ABC that this study should be looked at closely by households with multiple people sharing one bathroom. Toothbrushes in a cup or container on the bathroom counter can definitely aid in “transmitting the virus” between members of the home if someone is infected, even if they are asymptomatic.
If you know you have COVID, Cardillo says you should keep your toothbrush in a separate area, while disinfecting it regularly. Once you’re done with your infection, “you should really get rid of that toothbrush and use a fresh, brand new one,” he says. And if think you may have had the virus, If You Have This Subtle Symptom, You Might Have Already Had COVID.