Minnesota Opinion: Minnesotans making a difference, saving lives
Summary: By staying put, by keeping our distance, and by sacrificing personally, financially, and in other ways, we are saving lives.
It’s been tough, and it’s only going to get tougher, this sheltering in place, this self-isolating, this watching helplessly as Grandma’s Marathon (and other events are) canceled, hundreds are laid off from (Minnesota companies), businesses scuffle along or worse, the threat of domestic violence only increases, and our economies collapse globally, nationally, and locally.
But we can take some solace and reassurance in this: By staying put, by keeping our distance, and by sacrificing personally, financially, and in other ways, we are saving lives. Tens of thousands of lives across our state, according to a University of Minnesota model touted this week by Gov. Tim Walz.
We’re making a healthy difference in the face of a pandemic few of us have ever even imagined.
“Minnesotans seem to be social distancing to a point where we’re stretching out the peak infection rate a little bit,” Walz said at his daily briefing with reporters on Tuesday.
The University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health model informed Gov. Walz’s March 26 stay-home order. The model suggests Minnesotans’ unprecedented sacrifices of personal freedoms and commerce, as the St. Paul Pioneer Press put it, would result in lives saved easily in excess of 20,000.
Such modeling can be inaccurate, health officials acknowledge. Predicting the future is never foolproof. Ask any meteorologist. But modeling is also seen as our best bet for reliably plotting a response and strategy.
And, so far — yes, it’s very early in this struggle — Minnesota’s response is making the grade.
A grade of A, in fact, in our social distancing, according to a New York technology company called Unacast. The company uses cellphone data to track movements. Minnesotans, it found, are doing a good job of hunkering down. Our driving around is down about 40% in the Twin Cities and 26% elsewhere in the state, the company reported this week. Overall, Minnesotans are moving 45.7% less since being told to stay put. Closer to home, (as of Thursday afternoon, Kandiyohi County was rated as a C, by Unacast. Other west central Minnesota counties were rated as follows: Chippewa B, Lac qui Parle B, Meeker B, Pope C, Renville B, Stearns B, Swift C, and Yellow Medicine B.)
Another service tracking movement right now, Zippia (normally a job-finding site), said Monday that “Minnesota is one of the most proactive states in the nation at handling the coronavirus.” The company analyzed social-distancing policies,COVID-19 tests per capita, numbers of hospital beds, and other key metrics on a state-by-state basis. Minnesota ranked No. 2 behind only Washington state.
Pretty good. Well, mostly. (Come on, west central Minnesota!) Clearly, we all can do better — and must do better for the health and safety of everyone. And we need to keep doing better, even though the action of inaction will only grow more challenging. We have a ways to go here. Weeks, perhaps months. Our commitment needs to stay strong.
This editorial is the opinion of the Duluth News Tribune's editorial board.