St. Cloud Times, St. Cloud, Sept. 27

Use data as guide to resume prep sports

After six long months of life limited — and at times locked down — by COVID-19, Minnesotans understandably want a return to normal.

Witness the Minnesota State High School League’s decision to reverse course and allow football and volleyball seasons to start in just a few weeks instead of in the spring.

The decision comes as teens and young adults drive record numbers of new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota — and much of the nation. It comes with America averaging more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths a day recently. And it comes solely as a result of public pressure, not expert advice based on statewide science and data.

Amid all that, we get it.

Sports are important to communities, especially these two for high schools in the fall. And certainly those seniors, many of whom likely spent more than a decade working toward this final year, deserve a chance to compete — just like their peers in soccer, girls swimming and diving, girls tennis and cross country this fall.

Keeping all that in mind, along with protecting public health, here are critical factors in moving forward with this decision.

Adhere to the basics of wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds, monitoring your health, and staying home if you’re sick. (Student-athletes and their parents, please put special emphasis on those last two.)

As simple as these steps are in curbing the spread of COVID-19, this board remains astounded by how many Minnesotans refuse to follow them — too often in making some bogus claim about politics, arguing it’s about rights and liberties, or, worst of all, denying COVID-19 is real.

How real is it? America’s death toll from COVID-19 in just six months is 202,000-plus. Given recent daily death rates, it’s on track to kill more people in about 10 months than the 291,557 Americans who died during the six years of World War II.

Be responsible. Follow the basic advice of experts. And think beyond yourself. Sure, students and young people routinely survive COVID-19. However, their role in spreading it could prove deadly to more vulnerable populations.

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Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Sept. 28

Minnesotans, don't lose philanthropic spirit

For many charitable causes, the end of the calendar year is critically important. And for good reason. As one of Charles Dickens’ characters observes in “A Christmas Carol,” philanthropic giving surges during the holiday season because it is “a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”

There’s no question that want is as keenly felt this year as ever. Abundance, though, may be taking a wait-and-see attitude. Leaders of Minnesota nonprofits are voicing their concern that donors are growing weary.

Nonprofits have been fielding extra requests for money all year — ever since the COVID-19 crisis reached American shores. The requests took on local urgency here in Minnesota last Memorial Day, when George Floyd’s death set off spasms of destructive violence.

If you think donors are weary, consider relief workers themselves, who must be exhausted. At the Sheridan Story, a nonprofit that helps Minneapolis public school students stave off food insecurity, demand spiked when the pandemic closed schools. Suddenly, the agency had to gear up to package as many meals in a day as it had produced in a pre-pandemic week.

Loaves and Fishes, another nonprofit that delivers food to the needy, saw donations surge during the early days of the pandemic, only to subside to normal pre-virus levels as the crisis wore on. “We’re still here and we’re still doing this work,” the agency’s Cathy Maes told a Star Tribune reporter, “and it’s harder than ever.”

Give to the Max Day, the annual giving event organized by GiveMN, has set a record every year since 2016. Last year it raised $21.6 million. This year, GiveMN held a special campaign to raise funds for needs related to COVID-19, and brought in an additional $5 million. Will that event subtract from this year’s Give to the Max Day, scheduled for Nov. 19?

And what of the other factors that affect charitable giving? Changes to the tax code in 2017 reduced some taxpayers’ incentive to give. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that donations start to suffer during recessions and times of high unemployment. At a seasonally adjusted 7.4%, Minnesota’s unemployment rate is somewhat better than the national level, but it’s still high — and in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the rate remains above 10%. Add to that the uncertainty of a looming presidential election and a stubborn pandemic, and it’s easy to see why generosity might feel like a reckless impulse.

But it’s just as easy to see why that generosity is vitally important. An estimated 10% of Minnesotans live in poverty, as do 12% of the state’s children. And the poor are far from the only beneficiaries of the work nonprofits do; the list of organizations that receive funds from GiveMN, for example, includes schools, churches, animal welfare groups, the environment, museums and other causes.

From Doctors Without Borders, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Center for Victims of Torture to Migizi, the ACLU of Minnesota and DanceMN; from food shelves to theater groups, from libraries to services for the blind — Minnesotans channel their generosity to almost every conceivable purpose and public interest. If those causes had to rely on government funds for their support, or if government had to provide those services, the public purse would be stretched to impossible dimensions.

In Dickens’ story, Scrooge grumbled that he paid to support prisons, the treadmill and the workhouses, and shouldn’t have to make charitable gifts as well. Now, as then, the government makes a poor substitute for human compassion. We hope that, as giving season begins in earnest — and as we near the end of this crisis-infested year — Minnesotans will once again step up and provide what the government can’t.

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Mankato Free Press, Mankato, Sept. 28

All women deserve decent health care

For women who choose to be mothers, a medical procedure that takes away their ability to conceive a child and give birth is a monumental change in their lives.

Such life-changing operations done without consent or clear communication from the medical provider are the stuff of horror shows — or of other disreputable times in U.S. history.

Some immigrant women in a federal detention facility in Georgia are saying they underwent such shady medical care. A nurse who’d worked there filed a whistleblower lawsuit this month that included allegations about a gynecologist performing unnecessary or undisclosed procedures affecting the detainees’ reproductive health.

Since then, other women in the facility have come forward alleging misconduct by the doctor who treated them.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that Dr. Mahendra Amin would no longer see patients from the detention center.

That action is a start in tackling the issues brought up in the lawsuit, but there is so much more to do. The women in the facility can’t wait for a lengthy, bureaucratic investigation before they get trustworthy medical care. Safeguards must be in immediately put in place.

A 39-year-old Cuban woman recounted for The Associated Press that she was told only that she would undergo an operation to treat her ovarian cysts, but a month later she was still not sure what procedure she’d undergone. After she repeatedly requested her medical records, the detention center gave her more than 100 pages showing a diagnosis of cysts but nothing from the day of the procedure.

This kind of secretive surgery harkens to other times in the nation’s history when forced sterilizations occurred. The 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell legitimized eugenic sterilization laws that were common in many states. The Indian Health Service sterilized thousands of Indigenous women without their permission in the 1970s. And in the late 1960s and early ’70s, more than 200 women who delivered babies at Los Angeles County and USC Medical Center underwent forced hysterectomies.

And this is not just the practice from a half century or more ago. Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

This unethical, morally reprehensible targeting of vulnerable people, usually women of color, must stop. The public must pressure their lawmakers to push for reforms that will protect everyone’s most basic human rights, no matter their gender, skin color, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

A woman shouldn’t be released from a detention center and find out that her ability to be a mother has been destroyed.