We have only begun to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how best to prepare for future pandemics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's analysis of state-by-state data (e.g., deaths per 100,000) only scratches the surface of understanding which actions worked and which didn't ("One million," May 20). Each government action helped to mitigate the spread but also had unintended consequences such as increased suicide, illicit drug use and financial ruin, to name just a few.
Before we celebrate Minnesota having fewer deaths per 100,000 than the national average or Mississippi, let's try do a deeper dive to understand how this could have happened instead of assuming that things like lockdowns, school closures or government interventions were the main drivers of fewer deaths. Let's look at how healthy we were as a state prior to the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Minnesota consistently ranked as one of the top states for the healthiest place to live as measured by both national health and life insurance companies. Mississippi ranked at the bottom.
Why is this important? We now know that COVID-19 struck hardest among the very old, the immunocompromised and the obese. If we as a state and individuals focus on maintaining and improving our overall health and well-being, by directing public health initiatives toward education around health and wellness, we will have a much better chance of surviving any future pandemic and reduce the need to implement draconian measures that did little to reduce the impact of COVID-19.
Robert Stevens, Mound
This month we are all trying to grasp the ungraspable: the fact that COVID has claimed 1 million of our fellow Americans. Thank you, Star Tribune, for the wraparound graphic in the May 20 issue that helps us understand how this toll has outstripped that of many previous epidemics and wars combined.
Meanwhile, I've begun to think of COVID like the weather — it's become somewhat predictable but is always subject to change. Perhaps a daily COVID reminder should be appended to our weather apps or should show up along with predicted high temperatures and the forecast on the upper right ear of the Star Tribune's front page.
We might see something like: "High of 60 and showers likely. Small chance of BA.4-5 variants, but surging BA.2.12.1. Take your umbrellas and be sure to mask indoors."
Ultimately, I look forward to the day when the forecast says there are no new scary variants on the horizon. It'll be a bright, sunshiny day.
Barbara Crosby, Minneapolis
I think it is shortsighted to claim that COVID is the worst disaster in this country based on gross death numbers. I challenge the staff of this publication to show either the death rate based on the population or the death rate per capita based on a specific number (i.e., deaths per 100,000 people). We may have had 1 million COVID deaths, but from a mathematical standpoint, that may not be a higher death rate per capita considering that we have more people in this country now compared to any of the other disasters, such as the 1918 flu.
Dan Wicht, Fridley
The brilliant graphic in Friday's paper illustrating the 1 million deaths due to COVID-19 helped put an unimaginable number in perspective. The use of both earlier pandemics and conflicts provided an effective way of demonstrating the scale and scope of this human tragedy. Never in our country's history have we ever experienced a loss of life on this scale. It is worth remembering and reflecting on the personal loss each one of these dots represent. Here in Minnesota, where there was much criticism of how the pandemic was handled, it is encouraging to see our performance was better than 39 other states, including our closest neighbors. This is thanks to the exceptional dedication of our heath care community, our acceptance of vaccinations, strong state leadership and the personal care and concern for our larger communities. COVID-19 is not going away — let's learn from our experience and embrace all aspects of strong public health.
Stephen Mahle, Golden Valley
Yet another missed deadline
Please remind me why the Legislature is in session from January to May. Once again, legislators did not complete their work in the allotted months and, as usual, waited until the very end to even attempt to get anything done.
Per the article in the Star Tribune on Monday ("At the Capitol, a race to midnight") there has been at least one special session in eight of the last 10 years. If that is what it almost always takes to get anything accomplished, discontinue the regular session and just hold a special session!
Perhaps it would be best this year to leave the work undone and hold no special session. Let the elected officials, from the governor on down, face the voters when they return home and explain why hardly any work was accomplished. A special session would just let them off the hook and allow them all to campaign this year and tout their so-called successes.
Ron Bender, Richfield
Every year it is the same problem. Even knowing there is a deadline looming, the wonderful Minnesota Legislature does not finish its work on time. Why not let them go without a special session so they learn that the deadline is a real deadline and not an excuse to put things off until past due? It is time to hold them all accountable. What happens to others who miss their work deadlines?
Doug (Frodey) Warring, Mounds View
CHURCH SEX ABUSE
Take a cue from the atheists
Given decades of news (such as "Probe finds Southern Baptists ignored years of sex abuse," May 23) of severe and persistent sexual misconduct in several major churches that ranges from offensive to horrifically criminal, may I suggest that churches consider taking a tool from atheist organizations' toolbox? Atheists are not immune to bad behavior. After several well-publicized incidents at atheist gatherings over the last years, most atheist organizations adopted a code of conduct for meetings and conferences. One example of such is here: convention.atheists.org/conduct. This code includes expectations and consequences.
Churches need to stop allowing excuses for bad behavior, hiding bad behavior and allowing bad behavior to continue and bring harm to more people. Set rules up front, make sure those rules are understood, and bring swift and severe consequences to rule breakers. Protect the future victims of sexual misconduct, and stop protecting the perpetrators.
Erica Klein, Richfield
A salve in a hurting world
I attended the fifth grade band concert at Kenny Elementary School in southwest Minneapolis recently, and my spirits soared to the sky. These days we witness war, racism, violence and fear every day. We are relentlessly assaulted and insulted by the lies and conspiracy theories of power-seeking politicians. We are numbed by mass shootings, white supremacy and despotic leaders. Yet, in the midst of all this, the hope and promise of our young folks shines a beacon of light. The sight and sound of 40 fifth-graders proudly playing their band instruments, sitting upright and following the lead of their talented band director, teaching with compassion and joy, brought hope for our future.
There is magic in music, and these smiling young musicians are experiencing it. Let us hope that their spirit, joy, dedication and talent can have an impact on the overwhelming challenges we are presented with these days!
Kenneth E. Abeln, Maple Grove