I was distressed to read Kevin Roche’s cynical commentary (“Fall surge peaked before Walz order,” Opinion Exchange, Dec. 2) which posits that our state government made the same assumption-laden calculations that Roche did and hid them from us in order to time “bizarre” executive orders optimally to “take credit” for the predicted drop in infections (which, Roche has convinced himself, will happen independent of executive order).
Last week our outgoing president made a rare appearance just to make sure that President-elect Joe Biden would not “take credit” for “the vaccines.”
This isn’t about credit! The one sure thing is that if cases decline, we won’t be certain of what caused that decline. For now, we need to buckle down and listen to the people who at least have an inkling of what they’re talking about. I believe our state government is there. Its recommendations are certainly debatable, but they are made with our (not Gov. Tim Walz’s) welfare in mind. Let’s let our epidemiologists do the epidemiology.
Frank Shaw, Roseville
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I agree with most of Roche’s analysis of COVID cases and that there was already a decrease in the rising percentage of new cases before Walz’s (economically painful) restrictions went into effect. This would have come about because of the public’s awareness of rising cases (thank you, news media!) and individuals deciding to pull back from possible exposure (some of us choose and are able to be responsible).
But where I part ways with Roche’s assessment is in the idea that Walz’s order was unnecessary. The natural consequence of a decline in cases would be a relaxation by the public of COVID avoidance strategies, just as we are entering the holiday season. There would be a very large surge by the middle of December, likely worse than the November surge, and almost certainly overwhelming pressure on hospital systems over Christmas holidays, with rationing of ICU beds.
Although small private gatherings have not been a major source of transmission during low infection rates, I believe they were prohibited because of the potential impact of almost everyone participating in the Thanksgiving holiday. At the same time, the prohibition would not have much of an economic impact.
By placing these restrictions for a full month, hopefully the prevalence of COVID in the community will be driven low enough to avoid having a disastrous January after the inevitable post Christmas surge, especially with vaccines on the near horizon.
Personally, I think Walz and his advisers nailed it.
David Brockway, Hopkins
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It is disappointing and puzzling that the editorial staff would publish material that politicized the pandemic. Presuming Roche’s statistical analysis is accurate — something open to debate — why would the paper give voice to partisan spinning of a major public health crisis? He says: “And we should remember that it was no action of the governor’s that caused the decline in active cases, if he attempts to take credit.” Really? Is this some sort of disclaimer that precedes the claim? Walz has demonstrated that he wishes he didn’t have to impose strict measures but that he’s acting on the best advice of experts. He has also shown that he doesn’t grandstand.
I’m going to engage in this same “preventive predicting.” After this pandemic is behind us, if review of the governor’s handling of this matter is widely praised by the scientific experts, I believe he will not politicize success. Instead, he will credit the public health experts whose advice he implemented.
Richard Masur, Minneapolis
Even more reasons to ‘stay’ Line 3
On Friday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will consider whether to stay construction of the Line 3 pipeline. Science, the law and public health provide strong reasons why construction should be halted while court challenges to the proposal are heard.
Scientists have testified to the climate and water pollution impacts of an expanded Line 3 pipeline on a new route. State agency energy experts said the pipeline isn’t needed and have asked the Court of Appeals to reverse the decision. If Minnesota values science and the rule of law, courts must be able to review and weigh the evidence.
Enbridge says it could complete construction in six months, before the Court of Appeals will issue a decision on challenges to Line 3. It makes no sense for Minnesota courts to rule on a pipeline that is already built. Rushing to put shovels in the ground before appeals are heard would deny due process for Minnesotans who seek to protect water and climate from the impact of this proposal.
Lastly, it is dangerous to commence construction in the midst of a pandemic. We’ve rightly closed workplaces where COVID-19 can spread because our health care systems are stretched to the limit. Out-of-state workers are pouring in, risking new COVID hot spots in rural areas of Minnesota with fewer health care resources.
For these reasons, the Minnesota PUC should stay construction of the Line 3 proposal. If they don’t, the courts should step in to preserve due process and protect the public health of all Minnesotans.
Ellen Anderson, St. Paul
The writer is the climate program director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and former chair of the Minnesota PUC.
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“Addressing climate change requires bold and creative solutions,” said Gov. Tim Walz in September when announcing his appointment of members to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Climate Change. Is this from an old football playbook — a misdirect action? Because by continuing to sit on his hands, Walz is allowing this impact: Line 3 oil will add the equivalent of the total CO2 daily emissions of 16-18 million cars every year it operates.
On Thursday the Star Tribune reported that the United Nations is urging leaders (Walz? Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan? Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop?) to end the war on nature and commit to a future free of planet-warming carbon pollution, citing growing fossil-fuel extraction as the culprit. And yet, here in Minnesota we, literally, are dumping fuel on the fire. Minnesota will very much pay for the scars of climate change: more taxes to pay for damages from flooding of the Red River and the Mississippi and for road washouts from extreme rain, costs to farmers from loss of corn crops in higher temps, fewer cold-water fish like trout, fewer days and lakes for swimming and fishing due to algae blooms, exploding tick levels and cases of Lyme disease, loss of jobs in our tourism industry as skiing and ice-fishing seasons shrink, and on and on.
Climate action is not for some future commission to deal with. It’s yours. The play is right in front of you, coach — up the middle, up the middle.
Barbara Draper, Minneapolis
RAMSEY COUNTY SHERIFF
Act like a sheriff, not a movie star
Thanks to the Star Tribune for reporting the reckless behavior of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher (“ ‘Live On Patrol,’ sheriff rolls past injured man,” front page, Dec. 3).
This is the second time in recent months Fletcher has risked lives of other people on the streets of Ramsey County to feed his ego.
Fletcher should be banned by Ramsey County commissioners from filming his Facebook show while driving alone.
Has he posted 60 videos, viewed by thousands, in order to run for higher office? Or is it strictly for his own aggrandizement?
Raymond Schreurs, St. Louis Park
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