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Wednesday's top front-page headline read, "Rush for vaccine crashes website." Why would this surprise anyone? The state couldn't get systems in place to handle health insurance or license applications, so why should this pandemic vaccine be any different? MNsure, MNLARS, MNcompetence.

Carl Calhoun, Blaine
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I am not writing to complain about the vaccine sign-up website crashing. That was to be expected with hundreds of thousands of people competing for few thousand doses. Rather, I am asking why there seems to be no plan to get the vaccine to people at high risk because of existing health conditions.

Without going into personal details, I am over 70 and have been living with heart failure for several years. I cannot take the risk of being exposed to COVID. I don't think I should be first in line — I was in total agreement with putting health care workers and nursing home residents at the front of the line. I agree that K-12 teachers, preschool teachers and child-care providers should be in line ahead of me.

But I am dumbfounded that a decision was suddenly made to make vaccinations available based solely on age — anyone 65 and over — without any provision for high-risk individuals. And, I certainly hope there are enough doses in reserve to give a second dose to those who have had their first dose.

J.H. Fonkert, Roseville
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Minnesota has a large number of citizens over 80 years old living in independent housing who have never been mentioned as a priority group for receiving the COVID vaccine. Many of them have high-risk health conditions; however, because they are not in any type of long-term care facility, they do not qualify in the first group under present guidelines. Leaving them in the 65-and-older grouping is ignoring the fact that many of them qualify medically for assisted living or other long-term care facilities, but for financial or other reasons are living elsewhere. These citizens need the vaccine so they can resume volunteer, church, essential shopping and family/social activities. Right now, they are denied these opportunities in order to survive. I am pleading for this group to be upgraded for the vaccine.

Erma Comstock, Roseville
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I am 65 and following the vaccine rollout closely. Rather than the plan announced by the state, opening up appointments for everyone 65 and older, I'd like to suggest we start with those 74-plus. Then as that demand is satisfied and more supply becomes available, drop the eligibility age by a year. The current eligibility age will be widely reported and everyone interested will know if they are eligible. That way the vaccine will be more fairly distributed and demand will be efficiently throttled. We can avoid the chaos Florida is enduring.

In a few months I'll be eligible and won't have to scramble for an appointment or worry that I am cutting in line.

Clinton Alan Lee, Roseville

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Didn't they promise to wear masks?

I am not sure whether to call this a simple coincidence or an irony — so will consider it both. I found it interesting that the Star Tribune's article "250-plus games signal beginning" (Sports, Jan. 15) concerning the resumption of high school hockey focused almost entirely on the COVID-19 precautions that were being observed — including masking requirements — yet every single photograph associated with the story included at least one young person either not masked at all or with a mask covering only the chin. Of particular note was the lead photo on the front page of the sports section that displayed two players celebrating a goal, one of whom was unmasked.

I have to admit that I find the "Let Them Play" group and their recent litigation very frustrating. It has now been determined that high school athletes can indeed play. It is too much to ask that they observe state-mandated masking guidelines? Without that compromise, it feels a lot like being given an inch and still wanting a mile.

Despite recent claims made by a handful of state legislators that masks may do more harm than good, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been uniformly clear in its support for masking, including high school athletes' use of masks when competing in their respective sports. This guidance was clearly reiterated by the CDC as recently as Dec. 31. In addition, it is also worthwhile noting that a study released by the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health in October of 2020 — initially used as an argument for high school athletes not masking — was subsequently called into question by infectious disease experts around the country and, what is more, actually resulted in a statement that effectively distanced the institution from its own School of Medicine and Public Health.

The coronavirus is apolitical. Indeed it is an equal-opportunity, bipartisan, very opportunistic agent. This is a "common ground" reality for all of us. As such, it is virtually undebatable that the simple act of masking protects all of us. Following this logic, not masking — especially when mandated as a public health initiative — is perhaps one of the more singularly selfish acts I can imagine in our current environment.

Dan Haugen, Plymouth
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Please, please, please stop printing pictures of people wearing masks below their noses! If, after almost a year of mask-wearing, how-to instructions and signs with pictures showing proper etiquette, people still don't know how to wear them, I don't know what will work. I do know what doesn't: continuing to highlight those who continue to ignore proper behavior. Please don't. Thank you.

Jeanne Torma, Minneapolis

BIDEN PRESIDENCY

Recovery only begins this week

I wish I could share the optimism of the letter writer in Wednesday's paper quoting Gerald Ford's words: "Our long national nightmare is over" ("Past speeches fit 2021, too," Readers Write). The nightmare may be over, but it's going to take a long, long time to fully wake up.

David Hauschild, Blaine
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Our nation is in desperate need of a Consoler in Chief. For four years, through so many challenges and tragedies, that voice of empathy and compassion has been missing from the Oval Office, every tweet another reminder that we could not look for consolation inside the White House. Finally, with serious challenges and tragedies still confronting us — not least of all the unthinkable loss of 400,000 singular, precious lives to the coronavirus — a politician with a tender and strong heart tested and formed by immense personal grief of his own is installed to aid in leading our country out of this heartbreakingly dark period. So many lives lost to a foe that his predecessor lacked the interest and courage to seriously confront. But light is slowly rising again, a glimmer of distant hope coming into view, the fullness of humanity residing once again at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Jenny Kuderer, Goodview, Minn.
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I cried in love and appreciation for the flag as Lady Gaga sang the national anthem on Wednesday. Just as the flag was still flying at Fort McHenry after the British bombardment so many years ago, our flag is still flying strong after the bombardment it has suffered — from within — in the last four years. Now I understand that song like I never did before. Our flag, our nation, may take a beating, but our flag and our determination to become a nation founded on the idea of democracy still stands strong.

Paul Rozycki, Minneapolis

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