Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently stated, "We clearly have enough [COVID-19] vaccine at this point to begin to expand and get more of the vulnerable individuals in our country vaccinated." The secretary of Health and Human Services is now recommending that states make vaccinations immediately available to all Americans age 65 and older, promising that millions of doses currently held back will be released, and saying that future state allocations of vaccine will be based on how quickly states are completing vaccinations.
Now is the time for the Minnesota Department of Health to dramatically increase the slow pace of vaccinations in the state. Recent data has shown that only around one-third of available vaccine doses have made their way into the arms of Minnesotans, and that Minnesota is 23rd in state rankings. Since when is being in the middle of the pack acceptable to Minnesota?
In response, MDH is encouraging local hospitals and clinics to accelerate the pace by offering more weekend appointments ("Minnesota's vaccine rollout reaches a third of its top priority groups," Jan. 12). MDH needs to think out of the box, move away from relying on the standard delivery systems and focus on moving the vaccination process into high gear. Where are the plans for opening of 24/7 mass vaccination centers, the utilization of the National Guard for community vaccinations, supplying vaccine doses to local pharmacies, or other alternatives? The goal must be to move all available vaccine doses into the arms of Minnesotans as quickly as possible.
James Reinholdz, Minnetrista
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The commentary encouraging planning for vaccine distribution ("We must distribute these vaccines more quickly," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 14) dovetails nicely with recent letters addressing the need for people to administer them. When large numbers of doses are finally available in Minnesota, we'll need many qualified medical volunteers to efficiently inoculate our population. Many could be retired professionals like me. If you'd like to volunteer, sign up for MDH's Medical Reserve Corps at mnresponds.org.
Eric Bressler, Minnetonka
Floyd response and Capitol insurgency are not equivalent
Numerous people continue to write, and the Star Tribune continues to publish, letters and commentaries equating the storming of the U.S. Congress with this year's protests and riots over police killings of Black citizens. Yet it is obvious, on its face, that such comparisons are logically incoherent and seem designed only to obfuscate, minimize and deflect from the singular danger represented by presidential and Republican calls to reject the nation's democratic system.
If Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, along with certain members of the Minneapolis City Council, had worked to incite crowds to attack City Hall during City Council deliberations, and a police officer trying to protect City Council chambers had been assaulted and killed by the mob, one could then logically compare the Minneapolis violence with the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. But there is no logical equivalence between the civil rights protests or riots this past summer and the anti-government violence in Washington. None.
What provides a better logical comparison to the social justice street demonstrations and violence in Minneapolis and other U.S. cities in 2020? The demonstrations against oppressive government policies and police brutality in Hong Kong comes to mind. In both cases people at the fringes of legitimate social protests engaged in destructive activity.
But proliferating a false equivalence between civil rights protests and this recent assault on the U.S. Capitol is disingenuous and irresponsible, whether for the purposes of diminishing Republican accountability for the events of Jan. 6 or for the purposes of promoting a false semblance of editorial "balance."
Michael Griffin, St. Paul
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State Republican lawmakers Kurt Daudt and Paul Gazelka are comparing apples to oranges by trying to link the protests after the death of George Floyd last summer to the dishonor that was exhibited to our nation last Wednesday. It is the difference between real and perceived injustice. Black people in our nation have suffered discrimination at the hands of law enforcement as well as their fellow Americans as long as they have lived here. The people who engaged in the insurrection at the Capitol were merely victimized by lies and rhetoric advanced by President Donald Trump and other Republican lawmakers.
It is not enough for Republican lawmakers to simply denounce the actions of Jan. 6. They must also denounce the falsehoods articulated by the president. It is time for them to stop quibbling with Democrats and start working with them to solve the problems that face us all.
Anne Straka-Leland, Excelsior
Make unity a Cabinet-level priority
There has been a lot of talk about unifying the country, from President-elect Joe Biden all the way down to pro-Trump Republicans at the base. Yet the fundamental chasm in understanding of current realities, of the fears and concerns, and of the path forward between Trump Republicans and Democrats could hardly be larger. This is surely one of the fundamental challenges of our day. The fact that President Donald Trump is leaving the White House does nothing to address this. What to do? I suggest that President Biden create a Cabinet-level position that addresses that challenge — not only at the national institutional level but at local levels as well. A "unity within diversity" agency could be responsible for putting into place, all across our nation, local and state personal conversations "across the great divide" so that people from both sides can begin to hear and understand one another and to build trust: in one another and in our democratic institutions.
Inherent in that work, too, would be addressing the major challenge former Sen. Al Franken outlined for us in his Nov. 12 commentary "Bring Americans together? Good luck!" (Opinion Exchange). The work might include reinstatement of the fairness doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission that had required mass communications media to present contrasting views on the news in a fair and balanced way, and whose repeal in 1987 brought the onslaught of strongly biased news reporting, a major source of expanding that political chasm.
Michael Haasl, Brooklyn Park
I see inspiration in her story, too
It is not only the little girls who look like Kamala Harris who will be happy with her historic inauguration as the first woman and first woman of color to be vice president of the United States of America. Me, too.
I graduated from high school and college, got married, had my first child, and got my first teaching job all in the 1950s. In high school, a counselor told me that I was a very bright girl and should go to college to become a nurse or a teacher. In college, even though I was paying my own way through work and scholarships, I did not receive my own grades; they were mailed to my parents. When I married, I could not have a bank account without my husband's signature. When I tried to open department store credit cards, they had to call my husband for permission. When I applied to become a teacher at North High School, I was interviewed by a group of all white, male high school principals. The first question I was asked was how my husband felt about my going to work full time. The second question was whether I thought I could handle my baby and still be a teacher. Women in government and positions of power were few.
When Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, I was heartbroken. With the imminent inauguration of Kamala Harris and the diverse women selected by President-elect Joe Biden for his team, this old white woman, like the happy little girls who look like Kamala Harris, is happy too!
Rebecca Strandlund, Edina
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