We need state guidance and leadership to help our schools, students and parents during the next wave of the pandemic. In-person school is critical to the development, health and well-being of Minnesotans. My daughter's school has nearly 100 students out under quarantine for two weeks, and Edison High School in Minneapolis recently switched to distance learning for two weeks. I got an e-mail from the teacher yesterday that I should prepare for having my kindergartner at home soon. Neither school is releasing much information on what exposure happened or how many students tested positive.
Quarantine is not what it was in 2020. At my own stage of pandemic fatigue, I'm not sure I can trust that an entire high school and large portion of my daughter's school will really quarantine — especially with the lack of transparency on when and where there was exposure. My mom groups are full of anonymous posts like, "Kids are in quarantine due to exposure. Can I still hire a nanny?" Managers are not as lenient with working parents as they were in lockdown. And we are all feeling the impact of the staffing shortage.
Let's use our accumulated learning from 2020 and use testing to help decisionmaking and limit anxiety.
Testing is not as glamorous as deploying a new, lifesaving vaccine but we need the state Department of Health, health systems and other stakeholders to transition from vaccine deployment to simplifying testing and authorizing testing strategies. Daily or weekly testing can give us information to feel safe sending kids to school and quickly isolate positive cases.
The energy and unity of purpose in the spring vaccine work was amazing. I understand that the state and governor cannot set testing as the regulation for all schools but they could release best practices and guidelines and help secure at home tests and pop-up testing sites where people need them. We are at least a month from elementary-age vaccine authorization, and we cannot expect every student to be vaccinated. We need a plan to protect students and have a successful year.
Kian Glenn, Minneapolis
Children in Minnesota are being denied access to a safe education because policy leaders continue to abdicate responsibility for enforcing public-health measures in schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics and MDH uniformly recommend comprehensive layered COVID prevention strategies that can make schools safer during the pandemic. Universal masking for students and staff is a key component of this approach and can be easily and widely implemented. So why are many Minnesota schools allowed to put students at risk by ignoring this recommendation?
All three branches of government have failed. Gov. Tim Walz has acknowledged that masks should be universally worn and has said that he values the health of students — and yet he has not used his authority to enact basic public-health policies statewide. Further, in response to a lawsuit from parents whose kids are at non-masking schools, Judge Thomas Gilligan stated that "it seems quite clear that the potential harm to K-12 students is immediate and irreparable in districts which allow students, teachers and staff to enter school buildings unmasked." Despite this, he found that the court did not have the authority to mandate a gubernatorial order. This leaves the third branch of government, the Legislature, to change the law, but with GOP party leaders leading the charge in anti-science propaganda, this is a non-starter.
Our kids deserve better than politicians who value re-election over their safety and education. It's time for our governor to stand up and do his job.
Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn, Mendota Heights
GETTING TO SCHOOL
Another factor: Integration
I am a white woman living on the North Side of Minneapolis. Were it not for busing, our children would have attended the same schools as those attended by a recent letter writer ("What happened to walking?" Readers Write, Sept. 20). Instead, they were bused in the mid-70s to "integrate" white schools in northeast Minneapolis because, by that time, the population of Near North was largely Black. I would have liked our children to attend neighborhood schools. However, I also wanted them to know and develop an understanding of people different from themselves. It is not possible to achieve both goals as long as neighborhoods remain segregated.
I do not know the writer and do not know whether his family remained on the North Side. I do know that too many families move elsewhere rather than stay in the city and fight for quality education for all children in all schools.
Laura Kadwell, Minneapolis
Why the mishmash of statistics?
Readers and society at large are poorly served by a headline and reporting that make it look like Black girls are the segment of American youth hit hardest by suicide ("'What's going on with our Black girls?' Experts see rising suicide rates," Sept. 19), when in fact "most of the deaths were among boys."
That key fact doesn't come until the second paragraph, and not until the fourth paragraph does the reader learn that suicide rates of U.S. youth "remain highest in boys, particularly whites, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives." The gendered emphasis of the headline — which is all many readers will read — frames the story and forms the reader's overarching idea of what's to follow.
Further obscuring the true picture is the way the story jumps between gender-specific and gender-neutral statistics. For example, while the headline and general peg of the story emphasize suicide among Black girls, the sixth paragraph cites suicide statistics of "Black adolescents" and "Black children younger than 13" without differentiating by gender. We can assume, based on the second paragraph's statement that "most of the deaths were among boys," that more Black boys than girls killed themselves. Why not make that part of the story gender-specific?
These statistics tell a terrible story any way you cut it. But if we're truly going to understand this epidemic of despair among our young people, we've got to tell the story in a way that clearly and accurately explains who among us is making that terrible decision to take that final, fatal step.
Steven Schild, Winona, Minn.
Extend our care even farther
Thanks for publishing the commentary by Charles M. Blow concerning the evident media imbalance in coverage of missing persons of different race. ("White damsels in distress always stop the presses," Opinion Exchange, Sept. 24). This affirms the truism that perception is reality: How we relate to and treat others depends on how we regard them.
When we broaden the scope of this cultural and moral examination to include other species, from mice caught in glue traps to wolves strangled in snares, we see the pervasiveness of the empathy-deficit disorder. As Albert Schweitzer advised, "Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace."
Michael W. Fox, Golden Valley
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