In times like these, it can feel like we don't have much control over the changing events around us. The truth is, every one of us has a key role to play in the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you are healthy or at high risk, following expert advice to stay home and avoid crowds ­— also called social distancing — is essential to lessening the spread of this disease. We can no longer stop its spread in our community, but we do have the opportunity to slow it if we all — every one of us — act now. Why? If too many people are sick at the same time, our health system could be overwhelmed by those who need care. It's essential that we take these recommendations seriously.

We must all take urgent action to slow this disease. Stay home, especially if you feel sick; wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water; and avoid crowds. If you do feel sick, call ahead or use an online appointment for instructions. Outside of an emergency, avoid going to the clinic or hospitals unless directed by a medical professional. Each person's actions today will determine how COVID-19 impacts our state in the days ahead.

Susan Kline, Minneapolis

The writer is an infectious-disease physician at M Health Fairview.

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Why are we so quick to label crises in terms of war and battle? Framing the COVID-19 contagion as "being attacked from abroad," as happened in last night's debate, is not only inaccurate, it is unhelpful and dangerous ("Virus cast a cloud on Biden-Sanders debate," front page, March 16). Let's be clear: There is no outside enemy at work here, except the frame of mind that posits "us vs. them." If there is any lesson to be learned as the virus spreads around the world and close to home, it is that we are all interconnected, and the well-being of each of us depends on the well-being of all of us.

A better frame might be that we are experiencing a global natural disaster, and we must all work together and help one another with compassion and with courage.

Karen Hering, St. Paul

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Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer should be ashamed of himself ("Rep. Tom Emmer balks at new coronavirus aid bill," StarTribune.com, March 16). We are facing a pandemic in America, and he had the guts to vote against a bipartisan bill that would provide desperately needed relief for American families and workers. We need to do absolutely everything we can to stop the growth of COVID-19 before it's too late, but instead our congressman is playing petty politics while people are losing their lives. I don't know how he can possibly justify voting against the bipartisan coronavirus funding bill that included desperately needed measures — such as paid sick leave and not moving ahead with new requirements for food stamps so that children who are out of school can have enough food to eat. He shouldn't ever expect to have my vote if he's going to vote against things that we so desperately need at a time of crisis in our country.

Nick Balmanno, Elk River, Minn.

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At a leadership workshop some years ago while working for the Minnesota Hospital Association, participants were asked to write down the name of a person whose leadership style we admired. I wrote "Jan Malcolm," who was then at Allina Health.

That memory came to mind watching the March 15 televised news conference on the state's efforts to mitigate the coronavirus ("All Minn. schools will close by Wed.," March 16). Malcolm, now the head of the Minnesota Department of Health, projects competence, thoughtfulness and authenticity, reassuring Minnesotans that we are in good hands.

In fact, the entire news conference reinforced that feeling. Absent was the bluster and self-congratulation we've grown accustomed to from government leaders. Gov. Tim Walz and his commissioners were entirely forthcoming and transparent — how often do you hear leaders these days say their plan isn't perfect, acknowledge there are contradictions, and say it will change as they learn? But it was evident that the plan reflects the best thinking of diligent health and education experts who take their roles seriously. The onus now is on us everyday citizens to follow the precautions experts urge to minimize the spread of the virus.

Rich Cowles, Eagan

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It doesn't seem that we will be getting rid of phone tracking, facial recognition and big-data technologies. So are we at least using them to track the spread of the new coronavirus? One idea would be to map the movements of individuals recently diagnosed with COVID-19 to help determine where they picked it up, who else might have been exposed at the same time, who has been exposed to the infected person after what incubation time, and other questions epidemiologists can ask. Incidentally, this works whether or not the infected person is in a position to be interviewed about personal contacts, recent movements, etc.

Stan Kaufman, New Brighton

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As theaters, concert halls, museums and arenas go dark, it is important for us to remember all of the people that depend on income from these venues, the artists on the stage and the people behind the scenes ("Crowd limits force music venues to unplug," March 15). Many don't have paid sick time or good health insurance and are seeing their income disappear. Nonprofits have very tight margins, and canceling a show can have a dire effect on the budget. If you had a ticket to a canceled event, think about making it a donation or letting the organization hold it for a future performance. Throughout Minnesota, the arts are part of the fabric of our communities. We need to make sure we weather this storm together.

Maura Fitzgerald, Minneapolis

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On Friday night, I listened to an amazing live performance by the Minnesota Orchestra on Minnesota Public Radio of one of my favorite orchestral works, Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, led by a fine guest conductor, Juanjo Mena. It's very long (more than 70 minutes) and engrossing, with a few segments that call for naps (on my couch at home), but the last movement is phenomenal. It was written during World War II and summons up a triumphant and overwhelming climax that matches any in musical literature. Great therapy in today's COVID-19 stress-inducing times.

And the remarkable thing about this radio broadcast, live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, was that it was played in an empty concert hall. A few staff people and family members were in the seats while the Minnesota Orchestra (one of this country's finest, in my humble opinion) musicians played their hearts out. At the conclusion, huge applause, cheers and the traditional foot-stomping broke out from the orchestra members themselves. The conductor even went through the common practice of highlighting various sections of players to give them the recognition they deserved, to the continued applause and cheers from their colleagues. What a wonderful experience for us out in radio-land, social distancing ourselves physically but not emotionally. Many, many thousands of listeners tuned in throughout the 46 broadcast stations in the MPR network. Thank you so, so much, Minnesota Orchestra, for letting us hear you play, even though the concert had been canceled. Wow! We deeply appreciate it. You are wonderful musicians and the finest humans.

Warren Park, Minneapolis

FEMALE RUNNING MATES

Biden isn't the first, but good for him

How is it that Walter Mondale's selection of Geraldine Ferraro as the first female vice-presidential nominee for a major political party seemingly has been forgotten? It is not acknowledged in the current commentary in the Democratic primary. Mondale's selection was precedent-setting and followed up in a major party by the late Sen. John McCain.

While I applaud Joe Biden's commitment to naming a woman to his ticket, this not an earthshaking new move. I heartily hope that we will have a female vice president in 2021.

Jim Maurer, Minneapolis

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