It was the fifth special session of the pandemic and some Minnesota lawmakers still hadn’t figured out masks.
Some wore their masks slung uselessly under their noses. Some kept them tucked in a pockets as they took to the Senate floor.
Some were quarantining at home after getting their unmasked faces too close to the president’s unmasked face, days before he was hospitalized with COVID-19.
Some posed the question, as they do every month: What if the real emergency in this state is the state of emergency?
Minnesota is in agony. Their constituents call them with stories that would break your heart.
Businesses are struggling and failing. People are worn down by months of stress and isolation. Mental health crises, drug use and suicide attempts are rising in their districts. Parents and students stretched to breaking by distance learning. Heartbroken kids who just want to play football, just want to hang out with their friends, just want life to go back to normal.
How, some lawmakers asked Monday — as the state reported 1,178 more coronavirus cases and three more deaths — could a virus be worse than this?
Some parts of their districts have barely any cases, they argued. Plenty of people who caught the virus barely seemed to get sick.
Sure, some people are dying, but does that mean everyone in Minnesota has to put on a mask?
Yes. That’s exactly what it means. Put on a mask, pull it all the way up over your nose, go save some lives.
You’d think after seven months and five very special sessions, they’d know that ignoring the virus doesn’t make it go away. Just like getting rid of the state of emergency doesn’t get rid of the emergency.
Minnesota has been in a state of emergency since March. So has everybody else.
All 50 states are under a state of emergency, as communities and health officials scrambled to stop COVID-19 from taking more lives, livelihoods and homes. America has been under a national state of emergency since President Donald Trump declared one 215,000 deaths ago.
But while every other state is using emergency declarations to cope with the planet’s ongoing catastrophe, Republicans in the state House and Senate tried once again to call off the emergency in Minnesota.
They failed, which means Minnesota’s pandemic response will continue, rather than halting until next year when our part-time Legislature returns to work.
The same Legislature that can’t decide whether masks in a pandemic are a good idea.
The same Legislature that blew six opportunities to pass a bonding bill this year.
Imagine all the lives we could save if Minnesota united to fight the pandemic instead of each other.
We, the people of the United States of Emergency.