Thumbs up to positive news about the pandemic in the region and state as cases continue to fall, as do positivity rates and hospitalizations.

The state’s top health leaders even showed signs of optimism and hope as they conducted their daily press briefing Thursday, in what has been come to be the daily doom, gloom and death report.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and infectious disease expert Kris Ehresmann sounded a positive tone that was almost shocking to those reading and listening.

“We’re in a better place right now than we have been for quite some time,” Ehresmann said. While she and Malcolm sounded the ever so cautious and somewhat obligatory tone of “not out of the woods yet,” they cheered the rate of vaccinations noting 30 percent of Minnesotans over 65 have been vaccinated.

“We’re closer than ever to the end,” Ehresmann said.

Gov. Tim Walz also loosened restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings such as wedding receptions on Friday. Now, those gatherings can be up to 50 people from 10, and bars can now allow up to 250 people, as long as they remain at 50 percent capacity. Bars can also stay open until 11 p.m. now instead of 10 p.m.

The modest adjustments were made due to falling COVID rates and growing rates of vaccinations.

It’s good news all around and offers some respite to a weary population that has endured nearly a year of COVID restrictions.

PFAS plan for environment

Thumbs up to leaders of several state agencies for announcing a comprehensive strategy to tackle “forever chemicals” polluting our drinking water, lakes and rivers.

PFAS are cancer-causing chemicals that are found everywhere and, as their nickname implies, never break down. They are used in everything from food packaging to solar panels.

The plan to reduce their use and begin cleaning them up includes a variety of strategies, including designating them as a “hazardous substance” that would be more closely regulated.

Tackling the problem will cost money, require more regulation and push companies to work harder to find alternatives. But it’s an issue that can no longer be ignored.

Worthwhile alarm saved child

Thumbs up to the effectiveness of the Amber Alert, which helped save a Minnesota toddler during the weekend.

That statewide buzzing alarm and bulletin on one Brooklyn Center’s woman’s cellphone alerted her to a missing child and the stolen vehicle he’d last been seen in. She spotted the SUV in her neighborhood. Inside that car was the 1-year-old child.

The birdwatcher grabbed binoculars to confirm the license plate of the wanted vehicle and called authorities.

The Amber Alert succeeded in helping put an end to what could have ended up being a tragic crime.

Killing the death penalty

Thumbs up to Virginia, which will soon be the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty.

This is no small achievement historically. Virginia was the site of the first colonial execution, and over the decades only Texas has put more prisoners to death.

Virginia’s habit of executions began to dwindle when the state started to require competent legal representation for suspects in capital cases. When the state Senate this week passed the repeal bill, there were only two inmates on Virginia’s death row. Its last death sentence came in 2001; it had not executed anybody since 2017.

Serious scholars of American capital punishment know full well that the condemned are overwhelmingly Black and poor. The death penalty is, at its core, a machine of white supremacy.

Despite the late-in-term obsession of the Trump administration with reviving the federal government’s death machine, public support for executions is dwindling. May other states with the death penalty soon follow Virginia on the path of repeal.

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