Is Relaxing the Covid Rules Minnesota's New Way to Tackle the Pandemic?

Jax Hudur

The death of a first grader should have changed the Governor's mind

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Coronavirus in Minnesota

Minnesota has been grappling with the Covid 19 pandemic and has lost 7000 residents. The State has had a total of 569,440 cases, of which 30,000 were children under the 10. On Monday 26th April, the death of a first-grader was reported, a stark reminder that the virus does not discriminate.

 Minnesota’s Governor Tim Walz was quick to offer his condolences to the child’s family, which was posted on his Facebook account, saying,

“I’m heartbroken to hear COVID has taken the life of a first grader. My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child. As vaccines help us turn the page on COVID-19, we can’t forget that this deadly disease is still present in our communities.”

The first grader’s death marks the third death of a child after contracting the virus. However, Minnesota’s Governor, Mr. Tim Walz, plans to loosen the Covid 19 restrictions, as he said so himself when he visited a mobile vaccination facility. The Governor said,

“The moves coming now are the moves back to normal. You can be in restaurants, you can be in movie theaters, we have kids in school, we’re doing most of those moves. The next moves are capacity limits coming off and of those things.”
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Governor Tim Walz’s Condolence posted on Facebook.

Despite the morale boost, what the Governor did not tell Minnesotans is that they can also die from the virus, especially now that there is a new variant called B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. The B.1.1.7 variant of the virus offers new challenges in that whereas children were a lot safer from the previous variant of the virus, this new variant infects children quickly. In Minnesota alone, about 740 Schools reported cases of the new variant of the virus, while schools across the nation are also making similar reports.

Scientists who have previously advocated for a return to school for children are now skeptical and are advising caution as we are now in new waters with the new variant. One such scientist is Dr. Michael Osterholm, the University of Minnesota’s Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, a former member of Biden’s Covid 19 advisory group. Dr. Osterholm describing the new variant, said, “Please understand, this B.1.1.7 variant is a brand new ball game. It infects kids very readily. Unlike previous strains of the virus, we didn’t see children under 8th grade get infected often or they were not frequently very ill, they didn’t transmit to the rest of the community.” 

The virus is adapting and changing; why can’t policymakers also adjust their strategies accordingly? Dr. Osterholm further warns,

“Anywhere you look where you see this emerging, you see that kids are playing a huge role in the transmission of this. All the things that we had planned for about kids in schools with this virus are really no longer applicable. We’ve got to take a whole new look at this issue.”

Do you think the Governor is listening?

Minnesota has thus successfully vaccinated about 56% of ages 16 and older, whereas about 41% percent of Minnesotans are completely vaccinated. Under 16s have not yet been offered, and the State’s strategy to combat the pandemic seems to be to vaccinate everyone but children and hope for the best. Minnesota’s State health department, in a similar but guarded statement, said,

Since children under 16 are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the best approach we all can take to keep children safe is to make sure those around them who can get vaccinated do get vaccinated, and that we continue to follow those measures that prevent transmission of the virus. Those measures include getting vaccinated as soon as you can, wearing masks when in public, socially distancing, getting tested regularly, staying home if you test positive or if you’re sick, washing your hands and covering your coughs.
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Source: Minnesota department of health

What the Governor needs to do is to not only make life easier for folks but also to save people’s lives. However, if a choice is to be made between relaxing the rules and saving lives, his priority should be to save lives. Considering that this new variant of the virus poses a real threat to children, what needs to happen is to put safeguarding measures in place and not just rely on vaccines.

 It’s pretty unacceptable to continue operating business as usual when first graders are dying. I understand that the economy is taking a hit, and people are losing jobs and livelihoods, but with practical and sound policies, the situation can be turned around. Perhaps to understand the need for proper leadership to confront the pandemic, we ought to look elsewhere for answers, and in that vein, India and New Zealand come to mind. 

This week, while New Zealanders enjoyed a concert attended by the thousands, Indians were mass cremating their dead in public parks. The two countries’ containment strategies in halting the virus meant that while New Zealand has now returned to normalcy, Covid 19 is out of control in India. Point of reflection, it’s in India where most Covid 19 vaccines are made.

To that end, do you think Minnesota should be open for business?

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I write about history, politics and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or newsworthy. "No special talents. Only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

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