President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took their oath of office this week against a backdrop of political division, a worldwide pandemic, and the economic fallout of COVID-19. I am optimistic their leadership will provide a path to heal our nation and, during this difficult time, it is a hopeful sign that our democracy endures.
Vaccine distribution update
The federal government instructed states to open vaccinations to everyone over 65 and the state has set up nine pilot sites across Minnesota to administer the vaccines. While appointments are currently full, check back on the site. Available spots will refresh every Tuesday at noon. The vaccine supply is limited, but this program will help our state prepare to distribute vaccines quickly and equitably when they become available. We are receiving about 65,000 doses a week and from what I am reading, it will be April before that number significantly increases.
The vaccination program continues to be impactful and we are reaching seniors, who have been hit so tragically hard by this disease. All 369 of our skilled nursing homes received their first dose and are on track to finish vaccinations in both residents and staff by early February. Last week seniors living in assisted living centers began receiving their first doses and vaccinations to this group should be completed by the end of February.
Also, vaccinations to educators and childcare providers through their employers are just starting.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcom has said, “It is nothing short of amazing how far we have come with the ability to vaccinate against this devastating disease.” We can credit great international partnership between scientists and public health for this success. I am optimistic and confident that we in Minnesota will get our share of vaccinations out as quickly as possible. Until then, stay safe and slow the spread.
Everyone can work to reduce the spread of COVID-19
- Wear masks when in public. 10-50% of virus carriers are asymptomatic (are not experiencing any symptoms). Wearing masks helps control the virus and has been shown to lessen COVID-19 spread.
- Avoid enclosed spaces with groups of people, where the virus can linger in the air for long periods of time.
- Get tested if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Stay six feet away from others.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or sleeve, or a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands afterwards.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth – with unwashed hands.
- Up-to-date guidance is available from the Department of Health.
Protecting our democracy
Yesterday, several of my legislative colleagues unveiled the Democracy for the People Act that aims to ensure Minnesotans can make their voices heard and that our democracy is responsive to their needs. The measure will strengthen and expand voter registration and absentee voting; reduce the influence of corporations and wealthy, well-connected donors; protect voters and elections officials; and reform our state’s campaign finance system to empower small donors.
Stay connected with the legislature
The Minnesota House will continue to operate remotely, as they did throughout most of 2020. The House will ensure openness and transparency for the public by expanding the number of simultaneous committees it can? webcast live? from a maximum of two to five, so you can stay current on issues moving through committees this budget session.
The Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services offers nonpartisan recaps of high-profile bills, committee hearings, and floor sessions with their Session Daily publication. Subscribe to receive these here. To track bills of interest through the legislative process, I encourage you to utilize the MyBills feature on the Minnesota House of Representatives’ website.
Please continue to reach out with any input, ideas, or feedback about the issues important to you. I value hearing from you, so please don’t hesitate to call or email me any time. You can also connect with me on Facebook here. It’s an honor to represent you at the State Capitol.