Commentary Editor’s Note: Editorials It represents the views of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently of the newsroom.
Roseau County is home to Polaris Snowmobiles, shares a border with Canada and regularly puts some fierce competitors on the ice during the state’s annual high school hockey tournament.
Now imagine if this northwest Minnesota county suddenly became empty of its residents. This tragedy puts the state’s COVID-19 death toll at a standstill as the country moves away from a war on the virus. May 11 ends Federal public health emergency.
American Census Reports 15,292 people call Roseau County home. That’s just shy of the number. Covid deaths As of January 2020, there have been 15,373 cases reported in Minnesota, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It’s amazing to think that the state lost more than one county in total population. A slightly different but equally heart-wrenching sight: The total number of Covid deaths here exceeds the population of the state’s smallest four counties combined — Kitson, Red Lake, Lake of the Woods and Traverse.
Families, friends and neighbors have been lost in the pandemic. Many were beloved elders, the death toll consistently high. Minnesotans age 65 and older. Their loss continues to be felt even as masks, tests and other reminders of the pandemic fade from everyday life. The devastating damage is a reminder that the virus remains far from extinct, requiring vigilance and common-sense measures such as timely booster vaccinations.
The weekly death toll from Covid is Historical lowsBut this airborne pathogen continues to spread worldwide. With this comes the risk of viral variants that can spread easily or render medical treatments ineffective.
Earlier this month, a respected group of virologists warned President Joe Biden’s administration that the virus could cause another severe wave of illness and death in the very near future. Their consensus: “There is about a 20% chance of an outbreak of microbe-mediated disease within the next two years,” according to the Washington Post. reported On May 5.
Omicron is a variant that has caused an alarming increase in cases and hospitalizations in early 2022. On graphs showing this data, Omicron waves stand out like skyscrapers.
An editorial writer spoke to an infectious-disease expert in Minnesota. Mike Osterholm He likened it to “sleeping with one eye open” when it comes to the virus, underscoring the importance of vigilance.
“We have to be ready to plug if needed. I’m not saying we’ll see another Omicron-like illness, but we shouldn’t be surprised,” Osterholm said. Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
The May 11 national covid movement will mobilize administrative changes and measures to ensure access to covid information, testing and treatment. For example, those who rely on medical assistance programs must demonstrate re-eligibility. That annual requirement was suspended during the emergency.
For those with private health insurance, the end of emergency period will continue to revert to normal coverage for Covid needs. For example, according to the CDC, insurers are “no longer required to waive costs or provide free tests for COVID-19.” Treatments such as paxlovide As long as government-purchased supplies last, those infected will remain free.
The end of a public health emergency is also a good time to review Minnesota’s performance.
There is considerable variation between regions when it comes to a crucial metric: the rate of covid deaths. Minnesota’s provisional, age-adjusted rate currently stands at 222.3 per 100,000 population, according to the CDC. That’s ninth best in the nation, meaning 41 other states had higher death rates.
Hawaii and Vermont had the lowest rates at 93.6 and 112, respectively. At the bottom are Mississippi (422.7) and Oklahoma (421.8).
The gap between states is embarrassing and worrying. They reflect long-standing challenges in regions at the epicenter of the epidemic, such as chronic poverty and inadequate access to medical care, as well as overall poor health indicators. For example, obesity, a risk factor for severe Covid, was more prevalent in southern regions, which had higher mortality rates. Vaccination rates also tend to lag in southern states, while Minnesota is consistently among the top performers.
This gap, along with virologists’ recent warnings that another omicron may exist, underscores the need for continued research into next-generation vaccines and treatments. Covid is not going away easily. Federal investments and innovation are essential to this growing medical device and to ensure that no one remains vulnerable to this deadly virus.
Editorial Board members are David Banks, Jill Burkum, Scott Gillespie, Denise Johnson, Patricia Lopez, John Rush, and DJ Tice. Star Tribune opinion staffers Maggie Kelly and Elena Nuzil contribute, and Star Tribune CEO and Publisher Steve Grove serves as an advisor to the board.