With the current coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse, it is a very scary and unsettling time to be alive. I saw David Brooks of the New York Times on TV the other night recalling how during previous pandemics such as the Spanish flu of 1918, people had behaved poorly toward their neighbors. He naturally wondered whether the same would occur during this pandemic. You also hear of people foolishly stockpiling items like hand sanitizer, which actually makes them less safe, since it deprives their neighbor of a prophylactic measure.

However, I am humbled and uplifted by the outpouring of care and empathy associated with these events. I open the Star Tribune and see many helpful tips, advice and supportive letters to help people cope with the social isolation and their loss of income. GoFundMe sites are already set up to help pay for food and other items to help people survive their loss of income. My wife and I take walks and meet smiling strangers (six feet or more away, of course) who wish us well, even though we don’t know them.

There are some who ask whether this is the beginning of the end of the world. I want to believe it is the beginning of a new and more compassionate world.

Stephen Kriz, Maple Grove

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As we sit in our homes, socially distancing ourselves from our friends and family, we should perhaps ponder why the number of hospital beds in Minnesota in 1980 stood at 5.7 per 1,000 residents and in 2015 the number had dropped to 2.6 per 1,000, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Could this precipitous drop have something to do with the reason we are facing panic because of a shortage of capacity? Shortsighted policies by our health care industry and the government regulators we depend upon to keep us safe are surely a primary reason for this predicament.

Wringing all excess capacity from a critical industry in the quest for maximum profit is wrong and should have been prevented by our state government. Utilities are required to have excess capacity. So should our health care system.

Leonard Lorence, White Bear

• • •

With all the talk of distancing, when important people are holding a televised presentation or interview, they manage to have others crowding around.

John Streed, Minnetonka

• • •

I’m a fairly frugal senior citizen who earns well under $100,000 a year. But I don’t feel I need a $1,000 check from the government at this time, and most of my friends don’t either (“U.S. tries for quick relief in $1T plan,” front page, March 18). Would we like one? Sure ... but in light of what is happening in this country and understanding what all those folks whose jobs have suddenly vanished are going through, I would hope the government would not distribute wholesale checks to all.

A speaker on the radio said today, “We certainly don’t want to give folks earning a million dollars a check for $1,000,” but as far as I am concerned, a lot of us do not need this handout.

Kathy Mattsson, Minnetonka

• • •

In theory, Minneapolis has free public Wi-Fi, but it doesn’t come up in my apartment near Loring Park. With essential services now online only, and public hot spots closed, can Wi-Fi be declared a basic right, and the network built up on an emergency basis?

Keith Heiberg, Minneapolis

• • •

I agree with the concept of rationing virus tests, given their current scarcity, and when the first 2,300 tests only had 60 positives, a 2.6% result (“State rations virus tests,” front page, March 18). With all the current isolation, we can all just assume we are potential carriers and avoid contact. Of those who do get sick, 80% will have mild cases and heal, no testing needed.

Those suffering high fevers, severe coughs and difficult breathing could be hospitalized, isolated and tested for possible anti-viral drug therapy and ventilators. Health care workers need testing to remain virus-free for their work. There are no current coronavirus immunizations or 100% effective anti-viral drugs, so it is up to the rest of us as individuals to isolate, medicate and heal ourselves. Save the testing for critical needs.

Michael tillemans, Minneapolis

• • •

During this global disaster, one thing remains constant. Every morning the Star Tribune is delivered to my door before I awake. Thank you to the writers, editors, printers and delivery drivers for keeping me up to date and entertained. And a special thank you to my carrier, Melody Lommen, who has provided outstanding service to my neighborhood for years.

Sally Thomas, Edina

DRUG PRICES

Big Pharma is crowding us out

Annette Meeks (“A frightening possibility on prescription drugs,” Opinion Exchange, March 16) is warning us all about the evils of government getting involved in keeping drug prices affordable.

She gives us the tired old argument that effective solutions to affordable drug pricing should mean all the players in the health care supply chain “come to the table.” Maybe the problem is that all of the players (including the drug companies) have already been at the table with our legislators for far too long behind closed doors, leaving the public in the dark. Maybe it’s time to give the public a place at the table and maybe that’s what having a Prescription Drug Affordability Commission and Advisory Council is all about. Who else is going to represent the public?

Meeks considers it “ghoulish” that such a board would establish a dollar value to each remaining year of a sick patient’s life, in effect making life-or-death decisions. Isn’t that what the drug companies are doing already? Does it bother anyone that unaffordable medical bills remain a leading cause of personal bankruptcy in this country? Nothing is perfect — especially a government agency — but who else will speak for individuals when obtaining the medication they need means a choice between death and poverty?

Ms. Meeks calls on us all to “work together to find reasonable solutions.” This is the same, tired refrain that groups like Meeks’ continues to offer. Let me point out that talk is cheap.

We need real solutions now.

Gregory Olson, Eden Prairie

FISHING

I couldn’t survive that

How many of our fishing people are more than mildly delusional? (“Mille Lacs walleye anglers take a hit,” March 18.) Tell me, please: What percentage of released fish can survive a struggle against a glorious catch after having their innards yanked around for five minutes?

Don Gerlach, Burnsville

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