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Two Years Into Pandemic, Free N95 Masks Are Now Available

Plus 3M's litigious earplugs, hero nurse retirees, and cheapo Art Deco schoolhouses in today's Flyover.

Good news, gang! These masks can keep us working through the pandemic.
FDA

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily 1 p.m.(ish) digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

You get a mask! You get a mask! You get a mask!

Who says the U.S. is a failed state, a hollow shell only fit to prop up Wall Street and patrol the globe with its bloated military? We might’ve been persuaded by that talk until news dropped Friday of free N95 masks trickling into Minnesota—just two years into the still-raging global pandemic! Supplied by the federal government, the masks will begin appearing at Hy-Vee, CVS, Corborns, Walgreens, and Walmart, the Star Tribune reports in this handy guide. You don’t need an ID or other paperwork to claim up to three masks. Kid sizes aren’t immediately available, but the Biden administration’s promise of 400 million free mask will include ’em in later shipments, the Wall Street Journal reports. The program is expected to be fully operational by early February. How many masks could you buy with the $600 in stimulus money the administration still owes you? It’s best not to think about that.

Accused of troop-deafening, 3M slapped with fine

A warning to military contractors licking their chops over the Ukraine situation: Your bloody profiteering can come back to haunt you, legally speaking. That’s the (literal!) case for Maplewood-based 3M, whose Combat Arms CAEv2 earplugs allegedly contributed to hearing loss in 250,000 soldiers. A Florida jury slapped the company with a $110 million verdict Friday, the largest sum in a series of “bellwether cases” related to the faulty plugs, the Star Tribune reports. 3M has defended the “robust protection” provided by its CAEv2s, which ceased production in 2015. “A jury of eight people held 3M liable for its conduct and awarded each soldier $55 million for a combined judgment of $110 million, much of which was to punish the company for its conduct and concealing its knowledge of a defective earplug for 15 years,” says hunk attorney Michael Sacchet. 3M plans to appeal the decision; another five earplug trials are already slotted for this year. Speaking of 3M knowingly causing harm in pursuit of profits: The company was hit with an $850 million settlement last year over polluting Twin Cities drinking water with “forever chemicals.”

Gettin’ too old for this shit

Heartwarming/horrifying hero nurse angles have seemed limitless throughout the pandemic. The latest example is Cindy Roden, a 70-year-old, retired, diabetic Aitkin nurse who reentered the field to help fight COVID-19, as we learn in Max Nesterak’s MN Reformer profile. “There’s always been a nurse shortage, but this … this is way beyond a shortage,” Roden tells the Reformer. “I just have to take my chances. If they could call me after this amount of time and ask for me to come in, obviously, they need it bad.” Jesus. The former retiree is now pulling 12-hour day shifts at a long-term care facility, and says the virus roars through “like wildfire” once it enters the doors. Minnesota’s long-term care facilities were short about 23,000 workers last fall, according to a recent industry trade group survey, with the Reformer pointing to four main culprits: poor wages, exhaustion, fear of contracting Covid, and lack of childcare options. Various state and federal programs are pumping millions into the private healthcare sector which, as we pointed out this week, is fundamentally rotten. Roden, whose rural community is vaccine-skeptical, is a plain-stated vax evangelist: “To me, it’s an easy choice: Do you want to live or do you want to die?” she says. “I happen to want to live, so I got the vaccinations and on we go.”

Wanna buy a WPA-Built Schoolhouse for $48K?

As Racket’s de-facto homes/real estate editor, I had to make a tough call: Are we going to the ol’ schoolhouse well too often? This recent piece on Middle River’s schoolhouse-turned-Airbnb attracted 100,000 eyeballs earlier this month, so I figured it’d be overkill to report on a vintage Norcross, Minnesota, school available for $48,000. Thankfully, Realtor.com did the work for us. “It has a lot of potential, but it has a lot of work ahead of it, too,” listing agent Karen Berget told Realtor.com of the WPA structure from 1938. “It’s almost all cement, which is why it is still standing after all these years of neglect. It is the perfect example of Art Deco on the outside.” Designed by Louis C. Pinault, the 3,200-square-foot building stopped functioning as a school in the ’70s, Berget explains, and the interior—including the hardwood floors and a staircase—is mostly gutted. Berget estimates a full-on rehab would require a six-figure investment, and the scope of the work drove the current owner to sell. Still, if you’re looking for a lil fortress by the North and South Dakota borders, you could do a whole lot worse.