Every death resulting from COVID-19 is tragic. Still, the wisdom of Minnesota’s approach to the pandemic can be seen in state-by-state data in Friday’s Star Tribune. Minnesota ranks near the bottom of the death toll, 40th among states and territories with 228 per. 100,000.
Mississippi had the worst record among states with 419 deaths per capita. 100,000. If Minnesota had a similar rate, there would have been nearly 11,000 more deaths here than the 12,800 plus we’ve had so far. It would almost equate to losing the entire population of a city like Grand Rapids with its 11,235 inhabitants.
A better state comparison could be neighboring South Dakota, whose governor, like the Mississippi, refused to pass other states’ public health protections and questioned the value of mask wearing and vaccines. Its death toll is 22nd among states with 330 per. 100,000. If Minnesota had the same death rate, there would have been more than 5,700 additional deaths here, a figure roughly equivalent to wiping out populations the size of cities like Glencoe, International Falls or Morris.
We Minnesota residents should be grateful to the state administration provided by Governor Tim Walz, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and others, as well as local authorities, businesses, schools and health facilities, who have made the difficult decisions necessary to save lives.
Ken Peterson, St. Paul
Thanks to the Star Tribune for the graphics from May 20 and information on the 1 million lives lost to COVID. I would like to offer a different way of thinking about all the lost souls. One million lives are about 1 in every 332 people in the country. The US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis holds up to 73,000. So if you went to a big event there and walked around and looked at those people, looked them in the eye, you would understand that at a rate of one lost per 332, about 219 would not go out alive. Pretty scary. Please get vaccinated and boosted.
Peter Berglund, St. Paul
Many students at Minneapolis College face crossing barriers that hamper their classroom success. They work more than part-time or are parents or relatives, and they often navigate on a bus commute that is unreliable or unreasonably long. Service cuts due to the pandemic as well as lack of drivers have only exacerbated the problem.
Recent research conducted with Move Minnesota shows that access to reliable public transportation is a critical component of success for Minneapolis College students. Transportation – late and unreliable buses – is one of the biggest barriers our students face in achieving a degree.
Our college does a lot to address the challenges our students face. We offer subsidized bus passes, lockers on campus for students experiencing housing instability, a pantry and a student support and counseling center. However, strong public transport service is an important building block for student success, which we can not provide alone. Investment is needed.
Investing in transit will benefit the nearly 40% of our students who use public transportation to get to campus and the 29% of students who have reported lack of tuition due to car issues. We ask heads of state to make the necessary investments to maintain and expand the bus service on which students across the region depend. Please consider free or discounted rates for students, as well as investment in fast transit lines.
Giving students the opportunity to succeed is not a matter of politics. Minnesota can empower the students who need it most – by investing in public transportation.
Sharon Pierce, Minneapolis
The author is president of Minneapolis College.
We can not afford to omit transit without means of transport.
If the state invests only in roads and bridges, it will leave out millions of Minnesota citizens served by transit and the housing, trade, jobs and economic development it operates. We need an appropriate investment in transit to bring our state into a more just, prosperous and environmentally sound future.
Despite its challenges, the Green Line Extension project has already created 7,500 construction-related jobs and generated $ 134 million for disadvantaged businesses. These jobs have filled families’ bank accounts in 65 of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
Investment along transit also benefits the whole of Minnesota. More than $ 9.2 billion in development has happened near existing and planned light rail stations, with more in the pipeline.
This investment in turn attracts companies and talents and generates tax revenues that support projects and services in every corner of the state.
No other transport infrastructure generates close to the magnitude of economic development that benefits the entire state than fixed-lane transit as a light rail.
If we fail to invest in transit – and light rail specifically – we will miss out on some of our biggest opportunities to move the whole of Minnesota forward.
We will also miss out on billions in federal funding. This money will instead go to other regions and cities (Austin, Tex .; Denver; Memphis, Tenn .; Salt Lake City; Seattle; and others), to which we are already losing jobs and talent as they successfully build modern transit systems.
Transit revitalizes and connects some of the most racially and economically diverse communities in our state – communities that depend on transit for daily needs and that continue to suffer the consequences of past racist transportation and land use policies.
Transit is an investment in the health of our environment. Cars and trucks are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota. High-quality transport options reduce pollution and congestion.
Minnesota’s future depends on a complete transportation system that includes both roads and transit. We urge our leaders in the Legislature to prioritize transit investments to support the long-term vitality of our state and all Minnesota residents.
This letter was signed by Marion Greene, Chairman of the Board of Hennepin County; Jonathan Weinhagen, President and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce; and Tom Dicklich, executive director of the Minnesota Building & Construction Trades Council.
Minnesota hands-free law has proven to be an inadequate measure to combat distraction-related disasters. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,000 people are killed on U.S. roads each year in accidents caused by distracted driving, and that number is constantly rising. Although many states, including Minnesota, have implemented laws and restrictions in their legislation, these efforts are not as effective as their original intent. For example, after California’s 2017 Assembly Bill-1785, which tightened restrictions on phone use while driving, a report from the California Office of Traffic Safety found that cell phone use while driving increased from 3.58% in 2017 to 4.52% in 2018.
Throughout my research on this topic, I have not been able to come across any realistic legislative changes that would have a significant impact on the current issue. Instead, there must be an increase in education about the illegality and dangers of distracted driving. If future drivers learn why they should not text and drive before getting behind the wheel, they will be able to develop good habits and normalize the absence of phones while driving. An example of this approach in practice is that Congress provides resources to include distracted driving awareness in driver’s license exams as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021. Other federal actions could include subsidies, additions to employment policies, and incorporation into school curricula.
This problem affects every single American, and to effectively alleviate the problem, we need to prevent it from occurring in future generations before it begins.
Kelly Dayton, Edina