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Our instruction manual for combating COVID-19 started with blank pages. We’ve slowly filled them with notes and studies and gradually applied them to rules of practical living, along with government recommended standard practices. But those “notes” are in pencil, with many erasures and cross-outs.

We’ve learned conclusively that this virus holds only minor consequences for school-age children. This should lead us to prudently normalize the school setting as soon and as thoroughly as possible.

In contrast, as of now we know far less about how contagious these young people might be. They are personally largely unaffected, but we’re still learning about how likely they are to spread the virus. Early reports about how readily they do are encouraging, but as yet are inconclusive. We should therefore focus attention on those with whom students have contact, specifically those we know are more seriously affected by COVID. Older teachers and older family members should be the focus of protective measures.

If we summarily shut down schools, we’re inviting all the emotional and social “collateral damage” into our lives which come from interrupting educational interaction by our young people. Students must be prudently permitted to get on with their educations.

Steve Bakke, Edina

FIFTH DISTRICT

Less celebrity, more legislating

As a resident in the Fifth Congressional District, I am tired of being ignored by my representative. A U.S. representative should be focused on their constituents — not their personal brand.

This is why I am voting for Lacy Johnson for Congress. We need a representative who has roots in the community, understands the issues and will work endlessly to fix them. Johnson has said himself that he will be a servant to the constituents of CD5, and already has a record of doing just that.

Johnson has lived in north Minneapolis for over 40 years. During this time, he has worked on economic development and education within the inner city. He is also responsible for encouraging large tech companies to take advantage of the Opportunity Zones within our district.

As simply a member of society, Johnson has worked to end economic disparities and close achievement gaps in education. As a member of Congress he will do so much more.

That is why I ask that you vote Johnson into Congress. He will fight for the issues the people in my district are facing. Not star in music videos. Not land book deals.

We need a servant, not a celebrity.

Jennifer Vought, St. Louis Park

MENTAL HEALTH

Emmer has a couple blind spots

I was interested in the recent commentary from U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota’s Sixth District, outlining his support for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and the Expanding Access to Mental Health Act (“Mental illness is an American health crisis,” Opinion Exchange, Oct. 19). As a licensed clinical social worker who completes mental health and risk assessments in many rural Minnesota emergency rooms, I certainly applaud his support. However, I have two concerns about Emmer’s blind spots on this issue.

First, Emmer assumes that mental health admissions should be longer than 15 days, which is unfounded: Acute stabilization often occurs inpatient in less than 15 days. Further recovery is most effective as a patient returns to their home, preferably with intensive outpatient services. Also, many patients do not consent to extend admission beyond the limits of a 72-hour hold or a weeklong stay, and petitions for commitment that would mandate longer hospitalizations are rarely supported by county judges in Minnesota.

Here is Emmer’s second oversight, or perhaps diversion: Access to guns is a major part of our assessments and treatment planning, especially in the rural and farming communities we serve. Access to guns greatly increases the risk of completed suicide. Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Public Health emphasize that “a suicide attempt by gun is almost always fatal, and often the time between contemplating suicide by gun, and acting, is short.”

Many times, families are frustrated that ER staff or police can’t restrict access to guns for at-risk patients. They often tell us they don’t feel comfortable removing guns from their family member’s home, so even with extended or intensive mental health treatment, the risk of suicide or homicide for patients with these tendencies remains higher when they retain access to their guns upon discharge. Ironically, Emmer’s opposition to red-flag laws undermines safe recovery in the community, while he claims to be addressing this risk by costly, unnecessary extended hospital stays.

Karyn Ertel, Big Lake, Minn.

BAIL SYSTEM

Compare it with reality, not an ideal

The article on how repeat offenders affect the argument for eliminating cash bail (“Repeat offenders temper bail debate,” Oct. 22) neglects to put this particular instance in a greater context. After all, there are repeat offenders in a cash-bail system, too, who make bail and then get rearrested. The question is not, “Do some suspects who are released in a no-cash-bail system get rearrested?” Rather, the question is, “How does the rearrest rate of a no-cash-bail system compare with that of a cash-bail system?”

We have some data on this. The state of New Jersey all but eliminated cash bail in 2017. What were its results? The rate of defendants charged with new criminal activity increased slightly from 24.2% in 2014 to 26.9% in 2017, according to the state’s report. Considering that the jail population was drastically reduced, 44% between the end of 2015 and 2018, this is a small increase. Over the same time frame the number of defendants showing up to court lowered slightly, from 92.7% in 2014 and 89.4% in 2017.

In the words of the report to the governor and Legislature on the results of the no-cash-bail system, “Concerns about a possible spike in crime and failures to appear did not materialize.” So please, don’t let one colorful anecdote skew the argument on eliminating cash bail. Let the data paint a more accurate picture.

Sebastian Ellefson, St. Paul

2020 ELECTION

I can’t vote, but you can

Dear adults,

This Nov. 3 you will have the chance to vote. Please don’t tell yourself voting doesn’t matter, because it matters to us, children. As you’re voting please think about what could help our society, and who could get the problems solved. Your vote is powerful not just to you but to everyone.

If I were voting when I’m older, I would focus on how to solve some world problems such as war and peace. There are so many countries at war — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and many more. Let’s change these wars and problems by voting; we can stop these issues. As the website justiceandpeace.org says, “True peace is of God so it involves the harmony of all people pursuing justice for all. In this way peace is, at its heart, a reflection of God’s Kingdom.”

I would love to see the world a peaceful, kind place not just in America but everywhere. I know it’s your choice to vote, but we need your power and ability to help and change for the better. I hope this can encourage you and many others to vote for reasons like this.

Jaelyn Kline, age 12

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