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My Point of View: COVID isn’t going away after the election, so do your part

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson


I wrote this column before Election Day, so I’m picturing ahead to counting ballots and facing an uphill battle in the spread of COVID-19.

Readers are by now aware of many projections made after the polls closed, but some key races are likely still too close to call. President Trump erroneously tweeted in October that the election needs to have results on election night (“Must have final total on Nov. 3”), but that’s not how our system works.

As presidential historian Michael Beschloss noted in a tweet, “We did not know presidential winner for certain before midnight on election nights in 1960, 1968, 1976, 2000, 2004, 2016. No one should pretend there would be anything historically unusual if that happens again in 2020.”

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

So, whatever outcomes are still unknown, stay calm and let the process work. Ballots are never all counted on election night. Counting votes that were received in time can go on for up to two weeks this year in Minnesota (an extra week than normal due to COVID precautions and a high volume of absentee ballots), and the results will be certified on Nov. 24. It may take longer than that for some races if there are legal challenges.

For those who do mail-in voting in Freeborn County (especially those in rural areas who have no in-person polling place), a late court decision last week changed the date as to when ballots had to be received by the county. Ballots had been previously given an extra week to arrive if they were mailed by Nov. 3, but the ruling stated that ballots had to arrive no later than Nov. 3. I hope all our county’s voters successfully maneuvered around this effort to suppress the vote late in the election.

Regardless of election results, COVID is still with us. The outlook is serious, and we must be vigilant and do our part. This past week, Dr. Fauci, our country’s top infectious disease expert said, “We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong places as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”

Hopefully it will sink in with people that we must face this grim reality, despite the failure of current presidential leadership. At a rally in Florida on Sunday, when the crowd started chanting “Fire Fauci,” Trump responded, “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election.”

In North Carolina last week, Trump said to a crowd, “That’s all I hear about now. Turn on television, ‘COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. By the way, on Nov. 4, you won’t hear about it anymore.”

COVID is a pesky fact that is not going away after the election, no matter what magical thinking Trump uses or whose expert voice he tries to silence.

We’re in a region of the country where COVID is considered to be in uncontrolled spread. The Dakotas, Wisconsin and Iowa are in worse shape right now, but Minnesota’s numbers are also rising quickly. On Monday, Minnesota reported 2,952 new COVID cases, hospitalizations are currently over 700, and nine people died. A fifth person from Freeborn County died from COVID last week. Over 2,500 Minnesotans have died of COVID since April, and the virus is on pace to be the third leading cause of death in our state this year.

The DFL and this year’s DFL candidates can be proud of how they modified their operations and campaigns in response to the COVID pandemic. They put a priority on safeguarding voters and families they came in contact with, following guidelines from our state’s top health experts.

Living in a rural community requires pragmatism, paying close attention to the elements and looking out for each other. All of these should give us an advantage in being more resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, if we have good leaders who follow the science and we have citizens who are wary of misinformation.

Please wash your hands, wear a mask and practice social distancing. It’s going to be a long winter, and we must all do our part and take special care to look out for each other until we have an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.