Our nation’s flag was flown at half-staff for many reasons this week. On Thursday, flags in Minnesota were at half-staff in honor of Paramedic Toby Lee Rowan, who lost his life in the line of duty while on a call the week prior.
Toby was 47 years old. He and wife, Darcy, made their home in Crow Wing County. He was employed by the Mille Lacs Health System and the Cuyuna Range Medical Center.
Toby was very active in all aspects of the emergency medical services field. In addition to his current duties as a paramedic, he has served with the Hastings Fire Department, Emily First Responders, and Fifty Lakes Fire and Rescue Department.
Toby was laid to rest with honors provided by the Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Services Honor Guard including a proclamation by Gov. Walz recognizing his sacrifice and dedication to duty.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Assistant Commissioner Bruce West and myself represented the State of Minnesota at a very bitter-sweet celebration of Toby Lee Rowan’s life at the Log Church in Cross Lake. Minnesota’s first responders play a critical role in ensuring our safety, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
Last week I mentioned concerns about the pace of our COVID-19 vaccination program. As a result, MDA created a new website that provides vaccination program detail down to the county level. That is helpful in understanding where each of our communities are in getting the vaccine administered.
A recent MINNPOST article provided perspective on how state vaccination programs compare. MINNPOST used vaccinations per 100,000 residents as their metric. As of Wednesday, Minnesota was rated at 33rd among the states based on CDC data.
It is critical we do this correctly and understand that no two states have the same plans in place. There are also time lag issues in vaccination reporting. However, 33rd of 50 indicates Minnesota still has significant room for improvement in getting vaccine off the shelf and into arms. We have more work to do in this area.