What a stellar exposé on North Ridge Health and Rehab ("Desperate at 'Death Ridge,' " Dec. 13), yet it's not just North Ridge. The virus has exposed huge systemic failures in elder care, period — for example, according to the Government Accountability Office, 82% of all nursing homes had infection prevention and control deficiencies cited in one or more years from 2013 to 2017. I learned this the hard way — my mother died in 2019 due to medical neglect in nursing home rehab.

Vanquishing the virus won't solve the tragedy of substandard elder care. We have work to do. Do we really want to subject our vulnerable loved ones to care we wouldn't tolerate? The elderly are not dispensable, not just waiting around to die — they have lives with meaning and connection. Time for soul-searching, individually, collectively. By what measure do we ascribe value to a human life — earning power, attractiveness, status? And who's dispensable — the mentally ill, poor, homeless, immigrants, elderly? Is there a hierarchy of value, or are we all equally valuable as humans, worthy of honor, respect, care? That's the critical question. And how do we want to be treated when we're elderly?

Jean Greenwood, Minneapolis


Less sick, but still hurting

When news broke of a new respiratory infection that was sickening thousands on the other side of the globe, parents and pediatric healthcare workers breathed a sigh of relief. The novel coronavirus didn't seem to target kids! Our most valuable resource was safe. As the past nine months have unfolded, it has become apparent to anyone who cares for children that our most valuable resource is not, in fact, safe.

While the world turns its gaze to the hospital beds overflowing with the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, the growing crisis facing our children goes seemingly unnoticed. Teenagers whose lifelong identities are forged in the arms of friendship find themselves isolated and lonely. School-aged children who should be playing games of tag on a crowded playground instead find themselves home alone navigating an inbox with 100 unread e-mails. And our toddlers, whose brains are primed for critical developmental milestones, are spending hours watching cartoons while their overstretched parents call in for their third Zoom meeting of the day.

The costs of these daily injuries are adding up, and it is becoming apparent to all of us in pediatric health care. Toddlers with developmental delays go without services while the window for early intervention slips away. Children are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression at higher rates than ever. Our pediatric wards are filling not with those suffering from respiratory symptoms but with teenagers coping with eating disorders and suicidal thoughts.

The last few weeks have brought cause for hope. Gov. Tim Walz's most recent executive order to close bars and gyms effectively dammed the surge of COVID-19 cases seen in early December, and schools are now working toward a safe plan to open elementary schools in January. Yet, our daily cases of COVID-19 are persistently higher than at any point in the spring or summer.

No matter how "safe" the governor's plan to open schools, another spike in COVID-19 cases will quickly thwart all attempts to get kids back in class. We need to see a drastic reduction in community spread before it is safe for all children to return to school. Minnesotans, I urge you to consider your role in the damage caused to our children if you choose to gather for holidays or patronize a bar. If not for yourself, if not for your grandparents — please, do it for your kids.

Katie Roberts, Medicine Lake

Roberts is a pediatric nurse practitioner writing on behalf of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.


For the nth time: Minnesota says no

Antofagasta's Twin Metals claims that it can design itself out of harming the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness ("Let Twin Metals project prove itself through regulatory process," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 21). It cannot.

A Twin Metals mine would be sited in the Rainy River Headwaters along lakes and rivers that flow directly into the Boundary Waters, where mining is banned by state and federal law. Because of this ban, the waters and air of the wilderness are untainted. The calls of loons, owls and wolves are not drowned out by industrial noise. Wild and rare animals, fish and birds find refuge. Humans share the wild canoe country with the natural world.

Allowing copper mining in the unprotected half of the Rainy River Headwaters would forever change the ecosystem and the landscape, resulting in degraded water and air, noise pollution, and loss of habitat and wildlife. In 2016, the U.S. Forest Service determined that copper mining in the Rainy River Headwaters posed an unacceptable risk of harm to the Boundary Waters and the exceptional economic, ecological and recreation benefits the wilderness provides. Such harm could never be fixed or mitigated.

Minnesotans understand this risk, and year after year agree on one solution: No mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters. Extending the ban on mining to all of the Rainy River Headwaters is the only enduring protection for Minnesota's greatest natural treasure. We are not asking Antofagasta's Twin Metals to prove anything; we are asking that Antofagasta leave Minnesota.

Becky Rom, Ely, Minn.

The writer is national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.


These pipeline jobs aren't safe

" 'Back on their feet' " (Dec. 13) celebrates Enbridge Line 3's economic impact on workers and rural businesses. After a devastating financial year, of course workers are grateful for employment. But this is not healthy, rewarding work.

Oil and gas pipeline jobs are among the deadliest in America, with fatality rates around four times higher than average. Since Line 3 construction began, a contractor has already been killed on the job near Hill City. Pipeline work has alarmingly low safety requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This pipeline also hurts the community, bringing COVID risks to rural areas, pollution of Minnesota's waterways with dirty tar sands oil, and harm to Indigenous communities (especially increased trafficking and violence connected to "man camps" of out-of-state workers).

Jobs in solar and wind are much safer. For laborers who can't retrain, water pipelines are safer projects, since they are usually in populated areas and more easily regulated. The renewable energy and retrofitting jobs we actually need would provide healthier, more stable and longer-term employment than a dangerous, temporary pipeline project.

Minnesotans, including pipeline workers and unions, should demand investment in renewable energy and infrastructure in public and private sectors, as well as retraining programs. Minnesota must do better than Line 3.

Emma Hanlin, St. Louis Park


I need some for a final parting

Word on the street is mistletoe purchases are down this year.

Let me buy a bundle so I can kiss 2020 goodbye and good riddance!

Sharon E. Carlson, Andover

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