I have heard from many of you worried about the handling of youth sports over the past year amid the pandemic. Between masks causing health issues for our kids and the last-minute upheaval of the Minnesota State Hockey Tournaments, parents and legislators have been begging for clarity for how the state’s decisions are being made. In a year when the children of Minnesota are being unfairly burdened by bureaucratic decisions impacting their youth, the lack of transparency coming from Gov. Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm is especially disappointing.

Minnesota Senate Republicans have prioritized bringing a sense of normalcy to the lives of our children this session, along with the group Let Them Play Minnesota, which advocates for students who have missed out on their extracurricular activities this year. On Monday, the Senate held a hearing with the Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller, and Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm to request once again clarity surrounding the administration’s decision making. Jan Malcolm said the state’s investigations show outbreaks in the state being connected to sports, later impacting more vulnerable populations. However, when asked if they had performed a study to confirm their theory similar to how Wisconsin handled the spread, Malcolm was unaware of any data existing.

Evidence acquired from internal emails from the Department of Health employees show a political strategy by the governor to tie youth sports to long-term care deaths. The emails show messaging strategies to engage with the public as they were anticipating pushback when they canceled youth sports, saying “we need to more explicitly tie youth sports to LTC.” The decision was also made because “the election, particularly the loss of six DFL seats in the House was in part a referendum on our guidance and sports was part of that.”

When making decisions, especially for the children of Minnesota, science and facts should be the main factor, not politics. These decisions impact millions of Minnesotans and to be using political strategy when dealing with the health of our state is incredibly disappointing. This is absolutely a breach of trust from the governor and a complete failure.

I have to wonder what other decisions throughout the pandemic have been made based entirely on political motives instead of the health of our people. When the governor was exposed to COVID, he quarantined for only 10 days. Meanwhile, a high school swimmer was banned from swimming in his state meet following an 11-day quarantine and two negative tests. It seems the governor is operating under the assumption of “rules for thee, but not for me.” This is no way to govern.

Commissioner Malcolm has been complacent at best regarding these embarrassing tactics. With no direct evidence or studies showing the link between youth sports and long-term care facilities, where are these claims coming from? It appears to be coming from the governor, and his underlings are falling in line to set him up for reelection. Playing politics with the lives of Minnesota children is frankly disgusting.

My colleagues and I in the Senate are taking this very seriously, even considering the possibility of not confirming Malcolm as commissioner. Actions have consequences and I am committed to ensuring this kind of failure does not spread even further.

I remain dedicated to fighting for your needs at the Capitol in any way I can. I encourage you to reach out to my office with your questions, comments, or concerns. My phone number is 651-296-5655 or you can email me at Sen.Mary.Kiffmeyer@Senate.MN. — Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake (Editor’s note: Kiffmeyer represents District 30, which includes Elk River, Big Lake and Otsego.)

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