Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota
Dangerously flying in the face of all public health guidelines to prevent the rapidly growing spread of coronavirus in Minnesota: the decision to import at this time thousands of workers from multiple states to construct a Line 3 pipeline.
Minnesota is currently facing an unprecedented firestorm surge of coronavirus, with over 350,000 cases and 4,000 deaths, including over 600 deaths in the first ten days of December alone. Hospitals are near a crisis state, struggling to provide care for increasing numbers of patients, and intensive care units are nearing capacity.
Minnesota’s health department classifies as the highest-risk activities those large gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and where attendees travel from outside the local area. Guidelines also recommend limited contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items. Being outdoors offers no absolute protection if other safety measures are ignored, and large outdoor gatherings such as concerts and motorcycle rallies have provided fuel for Minnesota’s quickly increasing epidemic. For those reasons, Gov. Tim Walz has strongly discouraged Minnesotans from large group gatherings and out-of-state travel.
There is no rational way to reconcile these stringent safety measures with Enbridge Energy’s plans to bring 4,000 workers from across the country into Minnesota’s rural areas for prolonged periods. Health professionals from across the state have urged Gov. Walz to stay the construction on Line 3, in order to be consistent with every other COVID prevention measure our health department and governor’s office has promoted. We cannot risk further death and disability from COVID by doing otherwise.
Alan Lifson is an infectious disease physician, and Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota.