On Dec. 31 the Star Tribune ran an article that discussed the national shortfall in distributing the COVID vaccine ("Delays plague vaccine rollout, officials admit"). I have been unable to get my health care provider to answer two questions: 1) Will you offer the vaccine? 2) Will you notify me when it becomes available? Front-line staff let me know they have no information, management has not responded to my questions, and the provider's COVID website does not even mention that there is a vaccine. I looked at the state Health Department's provider resource page and did not find guidance on communicating with consumers about vaccination.
The lack of information and proactive outreach by my provider is bewildering, and I'm at a loss to understand why the Health Department isn't advocating that consumers be kept informed. Am I the only one wondering what to expect?
Gerard Niewenhous, Plymouth
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We know who is included in the three main vaccination groups. We don't know where those folks in the second and third groups will get their vaccinations. Let me say there will need to be as many choices as possible to avoid unacceptable infection risks that come with long lines at limited sites.
What officials in Minnesota can help with is how many people have been identified in each of these three initial groups. How many doses have been delivered in Minnesota means very little unless we also have an understanding of the size of each group. This clarity of numbers as the program rolls out will help reassure the population and avoid chaos and confusion.
So let's get the group size numbers out and let's get the vaccine to as many providers as we can for access and a calmer public response. Please.
James Jacoby, Minneapolis
What about what society owes?
We hear a lot about the student debt crisis, but not enough that the problem has less to do with the personal responsibility of the student, less to do with reckless spending at colleges, and more with our failure to take collective responsibility for an educated, prepared citizenry. When I began my college teaching career 40 years ago, state and federal sources picked up 60-75% of the cost of instruction. My last tuition and fees payment in the California State University System in 1975 was $80.50 for a full load, which comes out after normal inflation to $389 in 2020; the state university where I teach now would charge $4,228 for that same selection of courses.
Government strategy for the past few decades has been to get out of the robust underwriting of higher education, despite the clear benefits it offers to society at large, and to lay the primary burden at the feet of one student and his or her family. The "high cost/high support" model, among others, foresaw an ever-diminishing investment by government in higher education accompanied by an ever-increasing personal student debt load to accommodate actual instructional costs. So when we bemoan the costs of higher education outpacing inflation, the least we can do is acknowledge that one of the reasons costs are accelerating at such a rate for individuals and their families is that our government commitment to those same students has disappeared by an even greater rate — to well below 25% of the cost of instruction in some cases.
Student loan debt is greater than credit card debt — and currently estimated at $1.6 trillion — and its burdens on individuals have created, for two generations, unnecessary stalls to the broader economy in homebuying and other areas. What should the community do, then? If a developer wanted to build a hotel in your struggling downtown, the firm would ask for cash, tax breaks or tax credits — or all three — based on the promise of increased economic activity the hotel would bring to town. The return on investment, then, would be argued in the context of community benefit rather than enhancement of the developer's personal wealth. Perhaps when we discuss debt forgiveness, we could use the same frame of reference: How would a $10,000 to $20,000 reduction of debt free up money that would stimulate our community's economy? And for those who have been lucky enough to pay down their loans, how would a $10,000 to $20,000 credit toward a mortgage or starting a business accomplish the same thing? Or why not wipe out student debt entirely, which could be accomplished for roughly the same cost of the most recent federal tax cut? Any of these moves would be a way for the community to reset after decades of disastrous policy that somehow overlooked the obvious: We are all in this together.
Richard Robbins, Mankato, Minn.
MINING NEAR THE BWCA
We can easily manage without it
One of two bedrock premises in favor of sulfide ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is this: The world needs more copper for our phones and green energy devices. This premise is flawed and invalid. From the companies' publications, Polymet's Northmet and Twin Metals mines combined will only produce something like 0.5% to 0.6% of global copper mine output. Further, the copper trade associations state, including pre-pandemic analyses, that current copper demand is soft, and projected demand growth over the next decade is under 5% annually. Currently idled mines, and new mines farther along than those near Minnesota's best waters, can easily meet this demand. Further yet, copper recycling studies show lower production costs than mining for volumes that easily meet increased growth.
So, green energy will be just fine without sulfide ore mines near our national treasure. By what logic is the risk of introducing a mining process, one with near-universal failure at preventing water pollution, worth the threat to the most pristine waters in the Lower 48 states? This is a simple question with an obvious answer.
David Paulson, Minnetonka
AFTER INAUGURATION DAY
Stop covering Trump's every move
National news media need to make one important resolution for 2021: Cover the administration of our duly elected president, Joe Biden, and allow the former president to become a private citizen. This is not going to be easy. Since the election of 2016, Donald Trump has succeeded in commandeering an exorbitant amount of news reporting by being outrageous and egregious. His every tweet and rallying cry have been broadcast many times over, effectively giving him hours upon hours of free advertising. After Jan. 20, it will no longer be necessary to cover him day in and day out. Those who wish to follow him can sign up for his tweets. His thoughts no longer need to be part of national news. He eats cheeseburgers or goes golfing? Not newsworthy. He continues to speak out in favor of white supremacists or Q-Anon? No need to cover it again. He holds a rally in Florida during the inauguration? Let Florida local news report it.
Trump has done everything in his power to overturn a legitimate election. Our democracy has proven its strength by withstanding his unparalleled attack. Now it is up to the media to be sure they are not acting as if the U.S. has two presidents by continuing their coverage of Donald J. Trump. So, as difficult as it may be, it's New Year's resolution time: For the next four years, prove the media are not fake news. Ignore the rants of a former president and instead cover the efforts of Congress and the Biden administration to address the problems we face as a nation. Happy New Year.
Carol McNamara, Minneapolis
Freedom of thought is the bedrock
The desire to remain "free" is so evident in our society today. We value our own opinion or those we admire by clinging to the opinion and life view even if it means the destruction of family ties, friendships, marriages, jobs, and our own credibility and reputation.
We have missed the point. What makes us a free society is not the particular opinion, but the opportunity to have an opinion — to share that opinion freely and to be able change our minds when a new truth is discovered. We need to value our freedom differently and with gratitude for all opinions.