These are challenging times. From 1968 to 1971, I was witness to death and near-death experiences with the Peace Corps in West Africa that prepared me for what was to come.

What came was AIDS. While my fellow Americans shunned the dying, the gay community and their allies communicated, organized and even protested in the crisis. The first order of business was to sit bedside with thousands of friends and even strangers who were dying. As medications came on board extending life such as it was, through the Minnesota AIDS Project we provided home support services. My first “assignment” died shortly after I began visiting. Over the next several years, once a week I visited, cleaned, cooked, did laundry for Doug, who was isolated in his apartment until he needed institutional care and died. In the meantime, friends and a previous lover died as well.

COVID-19 is now with us — but there are lessons that can be learned. We need to look out for each other. Now professional care providers sit bedside of the dying with families and friends behind glass shields. We thank but must support and protect those providers. In metro neighborhoods, we are blessed with medical and social service agencies with expertise. They are hospitals and clinics, neighborhood political and social service organizations, nonprofits that advocate and serve in various capacities.

While our dysfunctional president spins falsities, it will be up to us to communicate, organize and even protest within our communities and neighborhoods. My first call is to our neighborhood medical facilities, neighborhood organizations, churches, etc., to meet together in order to explore challenges and coordinate their activities in our neighborhoods. My second is to my neighbors to watch for those who may be at risk, or worse, in order to support them within the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Minnesota Department of Health. A third might be for us to use our historic ingenuity to face the pandemic. If your Airbnb is now vacant with reduced travel, perhaps you can provide isolation facilities supported by our city? If your church continues to meet, sanitize frequently used surfaces before each weekend. If you miss seeing a neighbor, call.

It has been done before, and so will be again — don’t wait for the feds.

Joe Landsberger, St. Paul

• • •

Coronavirus! Social distancing! What are some positives from all this? Off the top of my head:

• Get stuff done around the house that you’ve been meaning to do.

• Finally write that great American novel.

• Call up relatives you haven’t spoken to in a long time.

• Write someone a physical letter.

• Make plans to eat better and sleep more so that if you do get sick, you’re better prepared to manage.

• Think about how much the environment will benefit from all the decreased carbon being released (from reduced car/truck/plane traffic).

• Dust off that old instrument and play it again.

• Read a book that’s been sitting on your shelf.

• Get your taxes done.

 

Or better yet, spend 10 more minutes on this list and you might quadruple it.

Scott Ames, Maple Grove

• • •

It seems we as a people need to be tested severely every generation or so to see if we have the strength and courage necessary to survive in the modern world. During the influenza pandemic of 1918, an estimated 500 million people worldwide contracted the disease, and an estimated 20-50 million died, including half a million to 675,000 Americans. We got though that crisis because of the strength and determination of the American people. This calamity was followed quickly by the collapse of Wall Street in 1929 and the Great Depression that ensued, causing millions to be unemployed, wiping out fortunes and driving men and women to soup kitchens to find food to feed their families. We got through this crises because of, once again, the strength and determination of the American people. When faced with fascism, Nazism and Japanese imperialism in 1941, we again rose to the occasion and made the world a better place. Similar tests of our character have arisen since, like the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when we came closer to nuclear destruction than we knew at the time, and the many attacks from AIDS, Ebola, SARS, MERS and the H1N1 virus as recently as 2009. We beat them all because of the courage and determination of Americans of every ethnicity.

Now the question is, can Americans of today show the same strength and determination to defeat the coronavirus we now face? Anyone who doubts our ability to do so is betting against long odds.

Ronald Haskvitz, St. Louis Park

• • •

Prioritizing the economy over transparent, science-based communication about COVID-19 transmission and scientific measures to contain and mitigate it only helps the virus. Prioritizing transparent, science-based communication and measures for containment and mitigation will save lives, although it will hurt the economy. I don’t think we can have it both ways.

Thank you to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for being willing to say the truth about the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to our state and local public health leaders and departments for their many years of advance planning for this pandemic situation. Thank you to these same people for all the hard, risky work they are doing and will continue to do on the front lines of the pandemic. Thank you to everyone working in our entire health care system for putting their lives at risk. Thank you to everyone in other essential areas of public service who are also putting their lives at risk. The rest of us can show our gratitude and do our part by scrupulously following through on all the recommendations we get from the CDC, the Minnesota Department of Health and our local public health departments.

Andrea E. Johnson, Lake Elmo

• • •

Now that President Donald Trump has announced his plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic, may it be assumed that his previous description of the virus as a “hoax” perpetrated by the “fake news” media and the Democratic Party and his expectation of a “miracle” to alleviate the crisis are, in the words of White House Watergate spokesman Ron Ziegler, “inoperative”?

Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis

PIZZA

Shoutout to a hometown slice

I read with joy Meredith Deeds’ article on Detroit-style pizza (“A new pizza in town,” March 12). Oh, the memories, the delight. She did a splendid job of describing what sets my hometown’s pizza apart (I’m actually from the “Greater Detroit Area,” but it counts). Anyone who has any doubts should buzz out to Buffalo, Minn., and try it for themselves. Norm’s Wayside is an unassuming pizza joint owned by, get this, the grandson of originator of Detroit-style pizza! You can visit the restaurant’s website to get the full scoop, but I recommend reading — and eating — in person. No, I’m not shilling for them (although I wouldn’t say no to a slice!). I just didn’t want anyone to miss out on the heaven from my childhood. Order it with Vernors ginger ale, and it’s like a mini staycation.

Andrea Zander, Big Lake, Minn.

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