Other’s Opinion: COVID fight is now in the hands of the coalition of the willing

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The St. Cloud Times

Minnesota was first in the nation last week, but not for anything to brag about. Our overconfidence led us to the dubious distinction of having the nation’s highest rate of new COVID-19 infections.

We learned that federal military personnel will be deployed locally to help provide patient care in hospitals and health facilities.

And CentraCare issued a statement with an unusual tone, practically imploring the rest of us to take steps to stay well and stay out of their hospitals — because they’re full. A respected ER doctor detailed to Times reporter Becca Most the stresses medical staff are under as the pandemic keeps coming in waves. That, too, was very unusual among a profession defined by stoicism.

In other news, the Minnesota prison system upended its normal intake protocol after the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud (the normal intake site for the system at large) was found to account for 94% of the 251 active COVID-19 cases in the state corrections system. While about 80% of Minnesota inmates were fully vaccinated as of Nov. 10, the rate among staff members was about 60%.

In Austria, where the government had restricted the movement of unvaccinated people earlier this month, the situation escalated Friday to include a nationwide vaccine mandate and a full lockdown as cases surged.

And in still more headlines from this week: Vaccine boosters are being rolled out right away to any adult who is six months past their second COVID-19 shot. And Gov. Tim Walz won’t be declaring another emergency.

Some will read all of that as proof that nothing works in this fight against COVID-19. Not vaccines. Not masks. Not avoiding crowds or getting tested or social distancing.

Those folks are wrong. There are many pieces of credible evidence that show those small steps are very effective at reducing the risk of spreading the disease, falling seriously ill, being hospitalized or dying.

Those neighbors of ours may be wrong, but they are also entitled to be wrong. So be it, moving on…

So the circumstances at hand mean the coalition of the willing (to borrow an old GOP slogan) must rally. People who have had two shots should rapidly get their boosters to make their own body a less hospitable host and vector for new variants.

Masks seem to be reappearing in public with the latest surge. They can’t hurt, so let’s get them back on en masse. (No really, they can’t hurt. If masks led to oxygen deprivation we all would have seen people collapsing in the streets over the past 18 months. Believe your own eyes.)

Maybe ration your time in crowds, get some takeout from a local restaurant when it’s more about “not-cooking-tonight” than “date night,” and keep the curbside pickup trend going during this holiday shopping season.

Because two things have become crystal clear this fall:

— The doubters are unlikely to adopt proven infection-control best practices at this point, short of a stint on a ventilator themselves.

— Throwing up our hands in defeat because no solution has proven to be a silver bullet is not only hurting people, it’s not a good look for a state that prides itself on common sense, resilience and doing the right thing.

So it’s up to some of us to do our best to take care of all of us: Vaccinated people, get your booster. Pharmacies have shots available right now, and they’ll be glad to see you.

Parents, talk to your pediatrician about getting your kids vaccinated. Talk to your schools about whether their COVID strategies are working, or just not rocking the boat.

If you’re sick, get tested. If you don’t feel well, stay home.

If you can avoid a crowd, do so. If you wear a mask in the grocery store, thank you. If you can stand a few feet back from the cashier, they’ll be grateful.

Do what you can. Because some will do nothing.

— This is the opinion of the St. Cloud Times Editorial Board, which includes Editor Lisa Schwarz and Content Coach Anna Haecherl.