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Dairy in demand: Pepin County drive-thru breakfast draws big response

While this June Dairy Month looked different from any other, Pepin County still turned out to show support for the industry.

About 1,100 cars went through two locations set up to distribute pre-packaged breakfast ingredients June 20, as the annual Pepin County Town and Country Dairy Breakfast moved off the farm and switched to a drive-thru version due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Turnout was way beyond what we even possibly envisioned,” said Pepin County Dairy Promotion Committee Chairman Randy Koller. “We were absolutely flabbergasted.”

The Pepin County Dairy Promotion Committee was prepared to feed about 2,400 diners. Committee members had prepared 600 bags of food, each packed to feed a family of four, and divided the bags between two drive-thru locations set up at Eau Galle Cheese northwest of Durand on Highway 25 and Komro Sales & Service east of Durand on Highway 85.

The packaged breakfasts included butter, milk, cheese, sausage and pancake mix and allowed guests to take the ingredients home to make breakfast.

The Pepin County Town and Country Dairy Breakfast usually draws about 1,600 to 1,800 diners to the farms.

The free drive-thru breakfast was scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m., but committee members started handing out bags at 7 because there were 26 cars already in line at 6:55, Koller said.

The bags were gone by 8:30 a.m., with each location running out nearly simultaneously, he said.

Committee members worked quickly to pass out bags of food. Koller said they averaged 3.3 cars served per minute for the 90 minutes before running out of bags.

Michelle Larson and her family picked up a breakfast bag from the Komro location. Larson said she waited in line for about 15 minutes and then returned home to make breakfast.

“Everything was delicious, and we went through the cheese curds immediately,” Larson said. “It’s amazing how many people donated and turned out to support farmers.”

Larson said she and her family have attended several other dairy breakfasts but this was her first experience with the Pepin County breakfast.

“I grew up on a dairy farm, so it’s important for me to stay involved and give back to the community,” she said. “We were a little disappointed the breakfast couldn’t be on a farm so my daughter could see the animals and a little of the hard work that goes into farming and what I grew up with, but we had a great experience.”

After bags with breakfast ingredients ran out, Committee members handed out bags of cheese curds, blocks of cheese and coupons from Eau Galle Cheese to cars remaining lined up at the distribution locations.

Committee members had prepared for a big crowd based on what they were hearing around town earlier in the week and bought an extra 200 bags of cheese curds. When those ran out, Eau Galle Cheese employees began cutting 1-pound blocks of cheese to get the committee through to the end of the breakfast.

“Even though we are the smallest county in Wisconsin and very rural we know how important it is to educate and sometimes even just to remind every person we can how nutritious and great tasting dairy products are,” said Noah Weiss, a member of the Pepin County Dairy Promotion Council whose family’s farm had originally planned to host this year’s breakfast. “This year with the COVID-19 still ongoing through our country, we didn’t know if people would be afraid or if it was worth the risk to come out for our Pepin County Drive-Thru Breakfast. We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.”

Koller said several factors likely contributed to the turnout, with people wanting to show their support for dairy farmers and people wanting to get out of the house after months of limited interaction with others due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Pepin County Dairy Promotion Council has also been involved with keeping dairy products available to area food pantries, and Koller said need could have contributed to this year’s high turnout.

“We never envisioned these numbers,” Koller said. “We were seeing people come through who I didn’t see come to the dairy breakfasts on the farms. To draw people who usually wouldn’t go to a dairy breakfast is kind of unique.”

The 32nd annual Pepin County Town and Country Dairy Breakfast was originally scheduled to have been held at Weiss Family Farms in Durand, and Weiss Family Farms has agreed to host next year’s dairy breakfast, assuming the breakfast is able to return to the farm. But Koller said the committee will be prepared in the event a return to the farm is not possible.

“Are we going to be able to get together on the farm next year?” Koller said. “This was such a success, it has to be our plan that we will do something again, even if we aren’t able to all eat together.”


International
AP centerpiece
World hits coronavirus milestones amid fears worse to come

ROME — The world surpassed two sobering coronavirus milestones Sunday — 500,000 confirmed deaths, 10 million confirmed cases — and hit another high mark for daily new infections as governments that attempted reopenings continued to backtrack and warn that worse news could be yet to come.

“COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, who allowed businesses to start reopening in early May but on Friday shut down bars and limited restaurant dining amid a spike in cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

More Florida beaches will be closing again to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus as officials try to tamp down on large gatherings amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said interactions among young people are driving the surge.

South Africa’s health minister warned that the country’s current surge of cases is expected to rapidly increase in the coming weeks and push hospitals to the limit. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said the current rise in infections has come from people who “moved back into the workplace.

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester showed that the virus was still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the U.S., Latin America and India.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step toward normalcy as the held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

Wearing mandatory masks, social distancing in lines and carrying their own pens to sign voting registers, French voters cast ballots in a second round of municipal elections. Poles also wore masks and used hand sanitizer, and some in virus-hit areas were told to mail in their ballots.

“I didn’t go and vote the first time around because I am elderly and I got scared,” said Fanny Barouh as she voted in a Paris school.

In Texas, Abbott appeared with Vice President Mike Pence, who cut campaign events from upcoming visits to Florida and Arizona because of rising virus cases in those states.

Pence praised Abbott for both his decision to reopen the state, and to roll back the reopening plans.

“You flattened the curve here in Texas ... but about two weeks ago something changed,” Pence said.

Pence urged people to wear masks when unable to practice social distancing. He and Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, defended the fact that President Donald Trump has rarely worn a mask in public, saying he doesn’t have to follow his own administration’s guidance because as a leader of the free world he’s tested regularly and is in “very different circumstances than the rest of us.”

Addressing spikes in reported coronavirus cases in some states, Azar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that people “have to take ownership” of their own behaviors by social distancing and wearing masks if possible.

A reported tally Sunday from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had reached 500,108.

About 1 in 4 of those deaths – more than 125,000 – have been reported in the U.S. The country with the next highest death toll is Brazil, with more than 57,000, or about 1 in 9.

The true death toll from the virus, which first emerged in China late last year, is widely believed to be significantly higher. Experts say that especially early on, many victims died of COVID-19 without being tested for it.

To date, more than 10 million confirmed cases have been reported globally. About a quarter of them have been reported in the U.S.

The World Health Organization announced another daily record in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world — topping over 189,000 in a single 24-hour period. The tally eclipses the previous record a week earlier at over 183,000 cases, showing case counts continue to progress worldwide.

Overall the U.S. still has far and away the most total cases. At more than 2,450,000 — roughly twice that of Brazil. The number of actual cases worldwide is much higher.

New York, once the nation’s pandemic epicenter, is now “on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with “Meet the Press.”

The state reported five new virus deaths Saturday, its lowest reported daily death toll since March 15. During the state’s peak pandemic in April, nearly 800 people were dying every day. New York still leads the nation in COVID-19 deaths with nearly 25,000.

In the state of Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee put a hold on plans to move counties to the fourth phase of his reopening plan as cases continue to increase. But in Hawaii, the city of Honolulu announced that campgrounds will reopen for the first time in three months with limited permits to ensure social distancing.

Britain’s government, meanwhile, is considering whether a local lockdown is needed for the central English city of Leicester amid reports about a spike in COVID-19 among its Asian community. It would be Britain’s first local lockdown.

“We have seen flare-ups across the country in recent weeks,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC on Sunday.

Polish voters were casting ballots, in person and by mail, for a presidential election that was supposed to have taken place in May but was chaotically postponed amid the pandemic. President Andrzej Duda, a 48-year-old conservative backed by the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party, is running against 10 other candidates as he seeks a second five-year term.

Iwona Goge, 79, was encouraged to see so many people voting in Warsaw.

“It’s bad. Poland is terribly divided and people are getting discouraged,” she said.

French voters were choosing mayors and municipal councilors in Paris and 5,000 towns and cities in a second round of municipal elections held under strict hygiene rules. Key battlegrounds include Paris, where the next mayor will preside over the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Italy was honoring its dead later Sunday with an evening Requiem concert in hard-hit Bergamo province. The ceremony in the onetime epicenter of the European outbreak came a day after Italy registered the lowest daily tally of COVID-19 deaths in nearly four months: eight.

European leaders were taking no chances in tamping down new clusters. German authorities renewed a lockdown in a western region of about 500,000 people after about 1,300 slaughterhouse workers tested positive.

Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to climb to a new high of more than 371,000, including 9,484 deaths, according to figures released Sunday by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Politics
AP
Trump denies briefing on reported bounties against U.S. troops

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday denied that he had been briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, and he appeared to minimize the allegations against Moscow.

American intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian officials offered rewards for successful attacks on American service-members last year, at a time when the U.S. and Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running war, according to The New York Times.

Trump, in a Sunday morning tweet, said “Nobody briefed or told me” or Vice President Mike Pence or chief of staff Mark Meadows about “the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians.”

“Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us,” he said.

The White House had issued a statement Saturday denying that Trump or Pence had been briefed on such intelligence. “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

Trump’s director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, also said neither the president nor vice president was “ever briefed on any intelligence alleged” in the Times’ report and he said the White House statement was “accurate.”

Trump’s tweet came a day after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that the report, if accurate, was a “truly shocking revelation” about the commander in chief and his failure to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and stand up to Russia.

Russia called the report “nonsense.”

“This unsophisticated plant clearly illustrates the low intellectual abilities of the propagandists of American intelligence, who instead of inventing something more plausible have to make up this nonsense,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

A Taliban spokesman said the militants “strongly reject this allegation” and are not “indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence organ or foreign country.”

John Bolton, a former national security adviser who was forced out by Trump last September and has now written a tell-all book about his time at the White House, said Sunday that “it is pretty remarkable the president’s going out of his way to say he hasn’t heard anything about it, one asks, why would he do something like that?”

Bolton told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he thinks the answer “may be precisely because active Russian aggression like that against the American service members is a very, very serious matter and nothing’s been done about it, if it’s true, for these past four or five months, so it may look like he was negligent. But of course, he can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a member of the “Gang of Eight” congressional leaders briefed on sensitive intelligence matters, told ABC’s “This Week” that she had not been been informed about the reported bounties and requested a report to Congress on the matter.

“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed. Whether he is or not, his administration knows and our allies — some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan had been briefed and accept this report,” she said.

The Times, citing unnamed officials familiar with the intelligence, said the findings were presented to Trump and discussed by his National Security Council in late March. Officials developed potential responses, starting with a diplomatic complaint to Russia, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the report said.

Trump responded to Biden on Twitter, saying “Russia ate his and Obama’s lunch during their time in office”

But it was the Obama administration, along with international allies, that suspended Russia from the Group of Eight after its unilateral annexation of Crimea from Ukraine — a move that drew widespread condemnation.

Biden criticized Trump for “his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself” before Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump tweeted that “Nobody’s been tougher” on Russia than his administration.