A recent article in the Star Tribune reported on the findings of a large British study that found a significant benefit to using dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, in patients with severe COVID-19 (“HCMC’s bullish use of steroid backed,” front page, June 17). A focus of the article and the accompanying headline was that at Hennepin County Medical Center, we have given corticosteroid therapy to the majority of our critically ill COVID patients, as have many other medical centers in the U.S., Europe and China.
While the recent data from the United Kingdom does suggest there might be some benefit to this approach, it is important to put this in perspective. Corticosteroids are by no means a magic bullet for COVID-19. Many of the patients we have treated have progressed to irreversible respiratory failure, including several who were relatively young and previously healthy. At this time there is no therapy that will reliably reverse severe COVID pneumonia.
We are aware of the recent rapid increase in COVID hospitalizations in a number of states that recently relaxed their policies on social distancing and fervently hope that this does not happen in Minnesota. Until an effective vaccine becomes available, it is important that all Minnesotans continue to follow the recommended guidelines regarding use of masks, social distancing and hand hygiene to lessen the degree of community spread of this sometimes-lethal virus.
James Leatherman, HEIDI ERICKSON and ROBERT SHAPIRO, Minneapolis
The writers are doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center.
• • •
To anyone over age 2 who doesn’t want to wear a mask in indoor public spaces for “medical reasons”: To my knowledge — as a family physician with more than 40 years of experience — there are two main reasons for true medical difficulty wearing a mask:
1. Severe heart or lung disease. People in this category are at such high risk from COVID-19 that except for visits to the emergency room, they should probably stay home, have their groceries and medications delivered and see their outpatient health care providers virtually. It’s tough, but the risk of going out, with or without a mask, is probably too high for you.
2. Severe anxiety or claustrophobia. That is truly a problem, but with therapy, some patients have been able to desensitize themselves to the point of being able to wear a mask at least for short times to do the things they really want to do. Wearing a cloth mask for a little while to go out is a whole lot easier than wearing an oxygen mask or being on a ventilator 24/7 for days or weeks if you are one of the unlucky ones who gets severe COVID-19.
For the rest of you, get over yourselves and wear your masks! It may be mildly annoying, but you, your neighbors and your community will be safer for it. Thank you.
Jennie Orr, Hastings
This means disenfranchisement
The right to vote is a fundamental right in our democracy. I am a proud Minnesotan, but I live overseas for my job. I have voted in every election and have always received a ballot by e-mail and mailed it back through the postal system. But life has changed. I just filled out my ballot for the August elections only to discover that Costa Rica currently has very little mail service from the U.S. because of the coronavirus. The U.S. Postal Service says service is suspended to 106 other countries as well. This effectively disenfranchises millions of Americans who live abroad, who may not be able to receive and/or send ballots. In 2016, 15,907 Minnesotans voted from abroad, of whom 4,318 were military and 11,589 were civilians.
Approximately 3 million U.S. voters live abroad. Twenty-four states and D.C. offer the option to some voters to submit ballots by e-mail, with a web portal or via an app. Minnesota does not. It is time for Minnesota to offer this service for its citizens living abroad. Once the system is established, it could become available for other Minnesotans who prefer to vote online. Our right to vote must never be compromised.
Ruth Mooney, San Jose, Costa Rica
Let’s ask some deeper questions
In a letter published June 23, a reader made the case that police are needed to keep us safe from shootings, such as the one that occurred in the Uptown area Sunday, when 11 people were shot (“See why we need the police?”). No doubt about it!
But I’m thinking that a bigger question deserves our attention: Why are there people in our community who feel the need or right to terrorize a gathering — feeling that it’s not only OK, but that they are proud of it? Where does such anger and disregard for life come from? For that matter, it’s the same question we should be asking about George Floyd’s killing — what triggers such behavior? Could the answer to that question be found by an examination of their childhoods?
Research about adverse childhood experiences tells us that the consequences of abuse and neglect are with us, in some fashion, for the rest of our lives. Did this violent, murderous and sadistic behavior stem from living in a violent home and/or community? Were these people bullied, sexually abused, emotionally and/or physically neglected by an addicted or mentally ill parent? These are examples of childhood trauma that are very damaging, but not uncommon. There are others, of course.
Getting at the root of these deadly behaviors needs to be our priority as we move forward to finding ways to keep our citizens safe rather than waiting until it becomes necessary for the police to intervene.
Carol Koepp, Edina
• • •
I continue to be puzzled by the logical gap represented by those who point to current acts of violence as evidence that we need the police. Last I checked, Minneapolis does currently have a Police Department, under whose watch people have been shot and people have felt unsafe. Every call that I’ve seen to defund, dismantle and/or abolish the police has focused clearly and thoughtfully on improving public safety for the community, and demanding more public safety than the MPD has proved capable of delivering.
I understand that clinging to the status quo makes it easier for some Minnesotans to retain the illusion of safety and security, but I would hope that any compassionate Minnesotan would be willing to trade in that illusion for an actual increase in public safety. I would note that I have not yet seen any reports of arrests made in any of these recent shootings.
Continually pointing out the violent acts that are happening while the MPD is supposedly keeping people safe is not the unassailable evidence of police efficacy that many seem to think it is.
Julia Iwaszek, St. Paul
Watch what you call ‘troubling’
The American Museum of Natural History in New York proposed that the city take down the statue of Teddy Roosevelt that stands in front of the museum, and the city agrees. In the museum’s explanation of the statue on its website, it says it finds Roosevelt’s “troubling views on race” problematic.
Really? Roosevelt was the first president to invite a black person, Booker T. Washington, to dinner at the White House, and he did it knowing he would be harshly criticized given the attitudes of the time. I would recommend to the museum’s administrator the book “Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation” by Deborah Davis.
Thomas W. Spence, St. Paul
We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.