Liberate Minnesota protest

Protesters gather in front the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul on Friday. A group calling itself “Liberate Minnesota” organized the protest to demand that Gov. Tim Walz end the stay-at-home order he issued in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

News coverage from last week’s ill-conceived protests at the governor’s mansion reminded us exactly why Gov. Tim Walz’ stay-at-home order is necessary. Despite recommendations from public health experts, some people require drastic measures to comply during this unprecedented health crisis.

And even with the stay-at-home order, those gathered in St. Paul managed to flout public health warnings by not only gathering en masse, but doing so while ignoring other mitigation strategies such as social distancing or wearing protective masks. They’ll tell you it was done in the fight against tyranny, but that sounds like jingoism to us.

This public health crisis is a poor issue to turn into a political cause. All around the country, Republican and Democrat governors are making the same decision to close their states due to the coronavirus pandemic. Each to varying degrees, but all have one thing in common: They’re making their decisions based on advice from science and medical experts in their states and at federal levels.

Those protesting with their reckless actions this weekend were not only protesting Gov. Walz, they were protesting Mary Turner, a nurse at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association; they were protesting Dr. John Hick of Hennepin County Medical Center, a national expert in emergency medical preparedness advising the Minnesota Department of Health; and they were protesting the health care workers of Hutchinson Health, Meeker Memorial Hospital & Clinics, and Glencoe Regional Health, all of whom have asked people to mind mitigation strategies such as proper washing and hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding unnecessary public gatherings.

We understand that this is a difficult time for people and businesses dealing with closures, layoffs and other hardships. We understand because we at the Hutchinson Leader and Litchfield Independent Review are feeling these same hardships. We want to thank those businesses that have continued to advertise with us during these difficult times, and for those businesses that have had to cut advertising, we want this crisis to end as quickly as possible for their sake and our own. But not at the expense of Minnesotans’ lives. We must listen to science and health experts when making these dynamic decisions.

Former Sen. Paul Wellstone famously said, “We all do better when we all do better.” He meant it from an economic standpoint, but we think he would agree with us using this slogan for public health as well.

We will all do better — from an economic and public health standpoint — when we all do better at listening to science and health care experts at local, state and federal levels.

It is not tyranny to listen to the advice of your doctors, and it is not tyranny for governors to use their constitutionally granted executive authority in response to recommendations from health experts. It’s common sense, and the sooner we all display more of this, the sooner we can start to see Minnesota return to some sense of normal.