Tom West, West Words

Tom West

Something I understood years before COVID-19 even jumped to humans is that most people believe what they want to believe. For all the good the internet has done in expanding each person’s access to knowledge, it has also allowed more people to live in their own echo chambers, reconfirming their beliefs that they are right and those who disagree are simply wrong.

In past weeks, I have tried to present the facts on how Minnesota is doing in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak compared to other states. The indications are that Minnesota is doing no better than states that had no stay-at-home orders. It is catching up on testing, but testing results are now intermingled between testing for antibodies in those who once had the disease and testing of those with active symptoms. When the Department of Health eliminated its daily table of the number of people who left isolation, however, a different agenda seemed to appear.

It’s as if the Walz administration doesn’t want the citizenry to know that as of Monday, the number of active cases in the state is declining in spite of increased testing. On May 1, the state reported a cumulative number of 8,707 COVID-19 cases since the first positive diagnosis on March 5. Of those, 2,282 were no longer in isolation either because they had died or they had recovered. That left a net of 6,425 active cases. On May 18, the state stopped commingling the dead statistics with those no longer in isolation. As of May 25, it reported 21,960 positive diagnoses. Of those, 15,523 were no longer in isolation and 899 had died. That leaves a net of 5,338 active cases, a 20% decline from May 1.

What’s more, that’s in spite of a ramp up of testing. On May 1, the DOH reported 77,560 tests completed. As of May 25, 209,898 tests had been done.

So, let me repeat what I have been saying all along. First, if you are in a group that has been shown to be vulnerable to dying from COVID-19, no matter what anybody else says or does – and that includes everyone from other family members to friends and neighbors to public health officials to Gov. Walz or President Trump – you need to take every precaution to prevent catching this disease.

Stay home as much as possible whether you are elderly or have underlying health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, etc.

If you are obese, now is the time to get serious about losing weight to get back to a healthy range. If you smoke anything from tobacco to e-cigs to pot – in short, anything that can damage your lungs – now is the time to stop. If you are out of work, now you have the time to make your top priority making yourself healthy. It costs nothing. Work on your diet. Get plenty of exercise every day. And just as important, stay in touch with friends and family so you don’t sink into feeling sorry for yourself.

For everyone else, the politicians need to stop micromanaging their lives and let them resume daily living. In all likelihood you are going to contract the disease. Many won’t even realize they have it; others will have mild symptoms. For all but a handful of otherwise healthy individuals statewide, the worst result is you will miss work for a couple of weeks. However, you aren’t going to die.

To this point, 99.24% of the Minnesotans who did succumb had underlying health conditions. It may sound callous to some, but the handful of otherwise healthy individuals who have died or will is not enough to eliminate the jobs of a half million Minnesotans any more than auto, hunting, snowmobile, swimming and industrial accidents are.

This is and always has been a nation based on individual liberty. That’s why the politicians need to start treating the citizenry like adults, not children.

It was important to “flatten the curve” so that the health care providers could prepare for the expected spike in patients, but that should be accomplished by now. Re-opening the economy won’t solve everything. However, we need to allow each individual to assess his or her own risks.

A low point was reached when Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison lectured Albany bar owner Kris Schiffler on why he had to obey Gov. Tim Walz’ order to stay closed. Ellison may have thought he was being educational, but it came across as bullying, particularly when, a day later, Ellison remained silent when the Catholic bishops and some Lutherans said they were going to ignore the ban on church services. It’s easier to chew on a single bar owner than to discriminate against a bloc of upset Christians, eh, Keith?

The governor worked out a “compromise” with the church leaders, but, really, church leaders are just as intelligent as politicians. So are bar owners. If the disease flares up and kills off a portion of their congregation or their bar’s patrons, they will be out of business regardless of what the governor orders.

The governor and attorney general would save more lives if they banned sending recovering COVID-19 patients from the hospital to nursing homes than they do by hectoring the healthy.

Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at

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