Editorial Roundup: Attack on state health commissioner unwarranted

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

In theory, this month Gov. Tim Walz is to call a special session so the Legislature can approve legislation divvying up $250 million set aside from federal funds for “essential workers.”

But the group working on the details — three from the state House, three from the state Senate, three of Walz’s commissioners — haven’t yet agreed on how to split up the money.

And now the governor, with good reason, may decide to skip the special session altogether after a GOP state senator, spouting nonsensical claims about deaths caused by coronavirus vaccines, renewed threats to legislatively fire Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, asserted at an anti-vaccine rally Saturday at the state Capitol that 212 people in Minnesota had died “from” the vaccine. This, he said, warrants Malcolm’s removal from office — something the state Senate, controlled by the GOP, can do by majority vote. This Senate, bending established legislative norms, has repeatedly forced out commissioners in an ongoing effort to obstruct Walz.

Said Abeler: “It seems the only language the governor understands is the removal of another commissioner.”

Walz said Tuesday he would not put Malcolm at risk of removal by calling a special session, especially with the continuing spike in virus infections.

David Montgomery, data reporter for Minnesota Public Radio News, dove into Abeler’s claim with a lengthy Twitter thread, which essentially boiled down to: The numbers Abeler cites don’t mean what he claims they mean. The notation in the database that the deceased had been recently inoculated does not mean, or even imply, that the vaccine was responsible. As epidemiologist Michael Osterholm points out, the database would include those who were vaccinated and then died in a car crash.

Abeler should know that. Instead, he implied in his own tweet that Montgomery’s “thoughtful review” backs his position. Again, it does not.

The vaccines are safe — far, far safer than their absence. MPR reported Tuesday that hospitals across northern Minnesota are filling up with COVID patients, almost all of them unvaccinated.

It is, again, disappointing that so many Republicans are irresponsibly undermining the vaccination process. Ideally, Majority Leader Paul Gazelka would rein in Abeler and declare that the Senate will not vote on removing Malcolm in a special session, but Gazelka, focused on his planned run for governor, is vacating his leadership post.

Without a public pledge from whoever is in charge of the Senate GOP caucus, Walz has to protect Malcolm and forgo the special session.

— Mankato Free Press, Sept. 2

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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