State senator encourages Walz to work with Cuba in fighting COVID-19

"Cuba has had great success with its research into COVID-19 treatments. Unfortunately, these drugs are not yet available here due to the US embargo."

Image credit: Twitter via @SenatorPappas

State Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-Saint Paul, sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz urging him to collaborate with Cuba in the fight against COVID-19.

Pappas’s letter asks Walz to take advantage of Cuba’s “medical and scientific success” in dealing with COVID-19. Though she announced the letter on the Senate DFL Caucus website, the actual letter has not been made available to the public.

This is not the first time Sen. Pappas has pushed for Minnesota to collaborate with Cuba. In fact, she authored a resolution for the same purpose in May.

Her resolution, which was co-authored by Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, calls on Walz to order the Minnesota Department of Health to investigate the possibility of obtaining “crucial assistance and expertise” from Cuba’s medical community. The resolution also asks the U.S. Congress and the president to lift restrictions on Cuban medical work.

Our resolution recognizes that Cuba has a long history of providing medical aid to other countries during Ebola, swine flu, dengue and other epidemics where it has sent its specially trained Henry Reeve brigades, often at no cost, to many of the world’s poorest nations,” Pappas said in a press release.

Cuba has had great success with its research into COVID-19 treatments. Unfortunately, these drugs are not yet available here due to the U.S. embargo, although clinical trials are going on in other countries that could make them available in the U.S. at some point,” she added. 

The resolution, which failed to pass, cites the use of Cuba’s interferon drug against COVID-19 in China. 

“Reports point to the efficacy of Interferon Alpha-2B Recombinant, when combined
with other drugs, in treating COVID-19; it has been called a possible wonder drug against the virus in the Yale University Press Blog,” states the measure. 

She also pointed to the World Health Organization’s recognition of Cuba as a biotech leader as another reason why Minnesota could benefit from working with the country.

Cuba, with a population of 11 Million, has only 88 COVID-19 deaths, roughly 3,000 cases, and is starting to reopen aspects of its tourist industry. It contrasts starkly with Minnesota, which recently reported 2,300 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s case total to over 61,000 with 1,660 deaths.

The senator previously worked to strengthen Minnesota’s relationship with Cuba by attending a meeting with Cuban diplomat Miguel Fraga and other senators, including Torres Ray, in 2018.