Not wearing masks on school buses

Thumbs Down: A parent contacted us with concerns about children who are not wearing masks while riding on the school bus. She estimated that less than half of the children exiting the bus are wearing masks. While it’s possible that the children are wearing masks for most of the route and then take them off as they are getting off the bus, parents have a right to be concerned. Under federal mandates, passengers and drivers must wear a mask. (There are some exceptions, such as students with medical exemptions may wear a clear shield instead.) Parents should have a talk with their children about how important it is to wear a mask while they’re on the school bus. They should share the advice from the Centers for Disease Control: Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. Children should wear a mask on the school bus, even if they do not feel sick.

Beware of border patrol scam

Thumbs Down: U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers are reporting that they’ve received numerous calls from residents concerned about unsolicited calls from scammers posing as U.S. Border Patrol agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Residents are reporting the calls are a pre-recorded message stating, “A box of drugs and money being shipped has your (the caller’s) name on it and it has been intercepted.” The caller is then instructed to press #1 to speak with a CBP officer/agent, which then attempts to get the caller’s banking information. There have also been reports of this same type of scam, however, the caller is an actual person, not a pre-recorded message. These calls are scams/phishing attempts and residents are urged to not provide the caller with any information. The Department of Homeland Security and CBP does not solicit money over the phone. If such calls are received, people should make a note of the number, any pertinent details about the call/caller, and immediately hang up. Residents are encouraged to report the incidents as soon as possible. Phone scams can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission online at

Failing to move vehicles

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Thumbs Down: Here’s a thumbs down for anyone who parks their vehicle on the side of the street and lets it sit there for several hours after a big snowfall. This messes up the whole process of clearing streets. Those who fail to get their vehicles out of the way in Alexandria will be red-tagged or warned that their vehicle has been parked on a city street longer than 24 hours. If the vehicle isn’t moved within 24 hours of being red-tagged, officers will issue a citation and the vehicle could be towed at the owner’s expense. Remember, after the next time it snows, to get out there, do some scraping and brushing and move your car off the street. You’ll avoid a tow and will help make the “digging out” process easier for everyone.

Long delay at the VA

Thumbs Down: An Alexandria resident said she ran into long delays while her friend was getting care through the VA in Alexandria. While her friend was sedated, the doctor asked if she could get a list of his meds. She said the VA will not send such a list by talking with the hospital. “I was on hold for 52 minutes before I was able to talk to someone,” she said. The person she called didn’t believe the woman’s friend was unable to speak. “It took seven times of being put on hold before she finally allowed the ER staff to speak to her on my phone to verify they needed his list of meds,” said the Alexandria resident. “I was not asking for them to give me the list, but to send it directly to the ER as my friend was in critical condition… Our veterans deserve better.”

Mental health help for veterans

Thumbs Up: U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker announced that they introduced the Vet Centers for Mental Health Act to expand access to mental health services for veterans and their families. The bicameral bill would require 10 additional states, including Minnesota, to create at least one new Vet Center to provide mental health counseling to veterans, survivors of military sexual assault, and Gold Star families. “Our veterans have sacrificed for our country, and we need to repay this service by providing access to care that meets their unique needs, whether that be mental health needs or readjustment counseling,” said Klobuchar. “The VA estimates that 11 to 20 out of every 100 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with potential symptoms of PTSD, making it all the more crucial that we ensure every veteran has access to Vet Center services, regardless of where they live. I am proud to partner with Senator Booker on this legislation to prioritize the mental health of our veterans.”

If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.