I am writing to ask that Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan work with local governments to close libraries to the public for the duration of the pandemic surge.
I make biweekly visits to our local branch because my 9-year-old seems to be heading for a Guinness World Record in reading, and books have become a source of escapist joy in a time of incredible uncertainty. But having the buildings open is unsafe for me, my family, library staff and all the patrons who enter the doors.
During a recent visit, alarmed at seeing strangers’ noses (oh, 2020, what have you done to us?), I approached the help desk at our branch and passive-aggressively asked a staff member how they were enforcing mask-wearing. The response, in short, is that they are like the rest of us: simultaneously doing our best and still not able to do enough.
The amount of time patrons are spending in libraries is not the grab-and-go advertised on their door decals. Most patrons require interaction with staff and many spend an hour or longer. Enforcing proper mask-wearing, sanitizing surfaces and limiting people’s time inside are losing battles for staff.
Our public libraries are valuable community resources and attract patrons from every germ bubble (I humbly offer this phrase to Dr. Anthony Fauci for his medical review), including those populations who have been ravaged by the pandemic — Black, Indigenous and people of color and the elderly. Hennepin County Libraries, whose mission to “nourish minds, transform lives and build community together,” is now a practical danger to the people they serve.
I have heard you and our pandemic experts pleading with the public to follow guidelines. As we’ve seen in other sectors, pleading is not working. Hennepin County leadership has indicated that it is taking cues from the state about what service level to provide, so I’m asking for some specific recommendations for libraries.
Staff can still participate meaningfully in curbside pickup, virtual programming and outreach, organizing mobile printing and increasing access to Wi-Fi and laptops. They did it before opening to the public. It wasn’t perfect, but it was safer for everyone and that’s the best any of us can ask for right now.
Except for good books. We can also ask for good books.
Katy Kessler, Minneapolis
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On Nov. 20 a letter writer who claimed to be a nurse of 35 years implored Walz to shut down elective surgeries. I think the governor is a bright guy. I’m guessing he has been working closely with hospital leadership these last months and has witnessed those leaders’ integrity, compassion and the determination to do the right thing. He likely understands the incredible juggling act leadership goes through every hour of every day. Things like: How do we serve all patients? How do we pay for the exorbitant cost of personal protective equipment in this pandemic or the increased cost to keep hospitals staffed? When is the right time to shut down a revenue stream? How do we keep our staff and patients safe? How do we effectively communicate to the doubters within our organization? Walz likely is aware that some Minnesota hospitals have closed or contracted in the last couple years and have had to lay off employees.
I work with a lot of committed nurses, aides and administrative assistants. They know their jobs well and they, too, juggle all kinds of pertinent information in order to give great patient care. They, along with thousands of other hospital staff from housekeepers to coders, work diligently to keep hospitals open, and I trust them to do so. Trust is a two-way street.
Garth Gideon, Clear Lake, Minn.
The writer is a registered nurse.
A theological point to make
Having read the Rev. John Bauer’s Nov. 18 commentary “ ‘Lover’s quarrel’ with my church must continue” and the letters the next day, there seemed to be something missing in their reasons. Some may consider what I say to be nitpicking or bad form, ecumenically speaking. I am not trying to be divisive. I am Catholic because this is the church that Jesus started. Jesus told us to baptize. Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to the 12 he chose as his closest followers, and they passed that authority on to others. Jesus told us to eat his body and drink his blood. As it was done in the first century, so we continue to do today. There is no other church that offers this. There is no other place to go.
Do we need to continue to call our church’s leaders to holiness? Obviously. But there is more to the church than familiar ritual, moving music and good works. Yes, these should be part of our response to God’s call. But, honestly, we can find those things and do those works through other organizations. But I cannot physically receive Jesus elsewhere.
Leo Martin, Minneapolis
To be an officer is to make tough calls
I read the following statement at a Richfield City Council meeting on Nov. 12, 2019, after the Richfield and Edina police shot a man who charged at them brandishing a knife:
In the summer of 1988, I was a newly hired Minneapolis police officer. One night several other officers and I were sent to an address to check on a distraught person. We climbed the narrow stairs to an upper room, and upon entering we found a man who jumped up from behind a couch holding half a garden shear under his chin. He looked at us and said, “Go ahead and shoot me, I don’t f***ing care!” A tense standoff ensued — if he didn’t approach us, we weren’t going to shoot, and he was unwilling to charge us.
After a few seconds we retreated outside to come up with a plan. The senior officers present decided to approach him again and spray him with mace in the hope that we could control him without shooting him. We went back in and applied mace until he staggered and dropped the garden shear. We then promptly put him and handcuffs and had him transported to the hospital.
A police officer must accept the reality that they may have to apply deadly force to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or another, and most I believe would hope that the situation would be that of a bad person clearly intent on harming others and not a good person so lost in their own mind that forcing a fatal encounter with an officer seems the only way out.
Later in my career the Taser came along. The device uses two probes attached to thin wires to deliver a disabling jolt of electricity to a subject, who can then be promptly handcuffed. If the probes make contact the Taser works very well; if the subject is moving, the chances of a successful deployment decrease.
To be a police officer is to place oneself in harm’s way for the greater good, sometimes to save a life, at other times to end one. Officers involved in the latter, if they are cleared of criminal wrongdoing, don’t usually get medals or an award ceremony covered with a news conference. Perhaps as a society this is how we come to terms with these unfortunate events.
It would be a disservice to these officers, however, if they were made to feel ashamed for actions that the law allowed and the situation required. Toward the end of his second term President Barack Obama stated that police officers deserve to go home at the end of their shift. I would also add that they deserve a chance at a long and honorable career.
Scott J. Dahlquist, Richfield
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