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I had to ponder the logic of the recent letter writer who questions whether children really need COVID vaccines, explaining that fewer than 500 children have died from COVID, while more children have been killed in car crashes within the same time period ("Do kids really need this?" Readers Write, Sept. 22).

Is the number of tragic deaths in car crashes the threshold by which we measure whether we should be alarmed? I think not. If even a relatively small number of children are injured or killed by a toy, household product or pool drain, for example, we immediately spring into action, pulling products off of shelves and enacting more stringent safety regulations. We don't say, "Well, it's only a few kids. The numbers aren't high enough to warrant our concern."

And those deaths in car crashes? We mourn each loss and diligently work to bring those numbers down, requiring specialized car seats for infants and toddlers, wearing seat belts and enforcing myriad traffic laws for public safety.

It amazes me that people have such skepticism toward COVID vaccines, yet once they are needing hospitalization and treatment, they avail themselves of any and all cutting-edge therapeutic measures to get well. Not being able to breathe evokes a willingness to accept lifesaving measures, even if they are only recently developed.

My response to the writer of the letter is this: If you do not wish to vaccinate your children, at least get vaccinated yourself. Don't join the legions of parents tragically dying from COVID (perhaps those numbers seem high enough to warrant action?), leaving behind children suffering immeasurable loss.

Lisa Wersal, Vadnais Heights


This letter writer appears to get her information from the Wall Street Journal opinion pieces or Fox News appearances of Marty Makary, M.D., a Johns Hopkins tenured (can't be fired) professor of surgical oncology — not an infectious disease doctor. On Feb. 18, Makary wrote a WSJ commentary titled "We'll have herd immunity by April." Oops. He continues to write opinions debunked by experts in epidemiology and infectious disease. It is part of his limelight-seeking pattern based on spurious claims, going back to when he wrote a book titled "Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You," suggesting hospital medical errors were a leading cause of death — something that has been totally debunked by experts evaluating his data analysis.

I suggest the reader go to to find what John Hopkins infectious disease and pediatric physicians have to say about protecting kids from COVID. No surprise: mask, distance and get the vaccine when it is available.

Maureen Swan, Minneapolis


Trout belong. Toxic runoff doesn't.

My family lives in 1855 treaty territory in northern Minnesota, on the edge of the Pineland Sands Aquifer. Our home is in the northern end of the normally forested sandy outwash plains that are heavily affected by the same water quality and quantity issues that are detailed in the Sept. 18 article "Trickle-down trouble." We have seen thousands of acres of forest removed to make way for chemical agriculture using irrigation that, according to groundwater testing, is obviously flushing chemicals into the groundwater.

Among the many complexities, one my observant partner noted was the irony in this quote from a farmer implying that trout don't belong in Little Rock Creek:

"'When do you start to wonder if it's like we're trying to have a giraffe live in a climate where a giraffe can't live?' she asked.

"The [farmers] grow kidney beans, corn, potatoes, alfalfa and other crops. Without irrigation the land is 'virtually worthless' ... "

Indeed, it sounds like such crops in sandy soil might also fit the description of the giraffe out of its home range. Perhaps it would be best to work with and restore the land's natural hardwood ecosystem and high water table, which used to support ecological diversity and trout. Our state statutes were written to protect waters like trout streams, but those laws have meant little to agencies who have for years unwisely chosen to ignore enforcement, while simultaneously pretending to have authority in treaties that were made before the state existed.

It's worth mentioning here that Department of Natural Resources intends soon to remove almost 200 miles of designated trout streams from protection. Maybe the real message is if the law is inconvenient for your industry partner, ignore the law until it can be changed.

Mike Tauber, Backus, Minn.

The writer is director, Northern Water Alliance of Minnesota.


State to Enbridge: Behave? Please?

One of the requirements for the state Public Utilities Commission's approval of the Line 3 pipeline was Enbridge securing insurance. It is the sort of thing that sounds comforting — the costs to Minnesotans will be covered in the event of a spill or other environmental damage. And yet, to anyone reading the news it had been reported for some time that insurers had been fleeing the tar sands pipeline market ("Insurance tougher for Enbridge," Sept. 20). So, was the PUC so ill-informed, or did they just want us citizens, the ones who will be holding the environmental-mess bag, to think there would be insurance to cover cleanup costs? Or does the PUC simply believe and trust Enbridge when it says it will take the steps necessary in the event of an unlikely release? If the latter is so, read on.

Then there's Minnesota's other guardian of our environment, the Department of Natural Resources, which found out months after the fact that Enbridge had blatantly dug pilings 28 feet deep, puncturing an aquifer in violation of its permit to drill only 8 to 10 feet. Does Enbridge raise its hand and say, "We violated our permit and damaged an aquifer"? No. Monitors reported it months later. And, does Minnesota fine Enbridge? Not really. A slap on the hand of $20,000, the maximum allowed by lawmakers — writing laws for whose benefit?

And so it goes in the world where the protection of clean water aquifers and the honoring of treaties we signed our name to are secondary to the right of a corporation, and where the guardians of Minnesota's beautiful environment run behind Enbridge like circus clowns behind an elephant.

Barbara Draper, Minneapolis


Vote stromatolite! They're cool!

Glad to see the Minnesota state fossil contest featured prominently in Tuesday's Variety section! ("Which rock will rule in Minnesota?") Being a rock and fossil hound myself, I was amazed to see that stromatolites are in the running; after all, no one to whom I've ever mentioned the term — other than geology professors and students — has ever heard of them; in fact, my software insists on putting a squiggly red line under the word. It also hates the term cyanobacteria, those photosynthetic, single-cell beings that built stromatolites and spawned you and me.

Now, it might seem blasphemous to many, but the fact is that cyanobacteria were the first form of life on this planet. They produced the first oxygen (which we are still breathing!) and paved the way for the evolution of all life. It's a lot to take in. My college geology text says that stromatolites can be as old as 3.5 billion years — about 1 billion years after the Earth itself was formed. That's a very long time ago, but it's still mind-boggling that modern humans have since evolved to be capable of most anything — even capturing the light that emanated from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago.

For the following reasons I urge you fossil geeks out there to visit and vote stromatolite for Minnesota state fossil:

  • Minnesota is home to lots of stromatolites. (I have hundreds of pounds of them.)
  • They're beautiful.
  • They're as old as the hills.
  • The other candidates look too much like human beings.
  • Kids in the area need to see them and learn about them.
  • The only living ones (yes, cyanobacteria are still forming them) are in Western Australia and the Bahamas.

Steve Ford, St. Paul

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