I am writing in response to the letter lamenting the governor's restrictions and their impact on rural towns ("Outstate is not the metro," Readers Write, Dec. 21). I, too, live in a small, rural town. And yes, we have seen businesses and restaurants struggle. However, I have also seen a much higher rate of mask noncompliance in these small towns. The state administration has had to balance negative economic impact and public health, resulting in a dial strategy to control the virus. If rural America really wants to be treated differently and have fewer restrictions, its residents need to mask up even more consistently than the metropolitan area. But that isn't happening. So, the economic and health consequences are squarely on our shoulders.

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Dear Gov. Tim Walz,

I was born and raised in the "rocks and cows" part of the state. I graduated from a "rocks and cows" college we affectionately called "Moo U." I'm a Vietnam veteran and am proud of those "19-year-old cooks" who faithfully defend our freedom. My wife and I owned and operated a restaurant and catering service for almost 44 years. We survived inflation, recession, road construction and bad weather days. We worked hard and made a decent living. We just recently retired.

We had an overhead of $170 every day we operated in the last year we owned it. That means we had theses expenses no matter if we were open or not. That translates to $5,100 per month or $61,000 per year. I don't think we could have survived this shutdown. You can't pay all these bars and restaurants enough money to keep them whole. You didn't have a plan to do so and still don't.

I hear you say again and again that you are following the science and the data. Governor, the science is inexact, and so is the data.

First of all, not all people who had COVID are surveyed. As far as tracing is concerned, how many went shopping to a big box store? How many used the restroom there or at a gas station or some other place? Were they questioned about the conditions where they work? Were they at a demonstration? Were they at a casino or an airport? Are nursing homes heated or air-conditioned with one unit or for each room?

You are going after and fining and closing places that are opening against your orders, yet a person can destroy government property by pulling a statue down, costing thousands of dollars if it is fixed and put back up, and the person gets sentenced to community service. You need some more guidance when making decisions about closing small businesses.

Larry Miller, Howard Lake, Minn.
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Everyone is suffering some type of fallout from this pandemic, none more so than the front-line workers at hospitals trying to do their best to care for the sick and dying of COVID-19. Gov. Walz had to make the hard decision to continue to keep certain businesses shut down even though it hits especially hard on our bar and restaurant industry. The letter writer of "Outstate is not the metro" might be missing an important point of the need for the continued shutdown: The small towns that gather without wearing masks or social distancing need to depend on the support of the big metropolitan hospitals and the resources they provide if anyone gets serious symptoms of COVID. Small-town hospitals are not equipped to deal with a number of outbreaks that require ICU care, and those patients are either airlifted or driven by ambulance to the already overwhelmed hospitals in the Twin Cities. Imagine the hours it takes to transport patients across miles while they work to keep you alive.

There is always a bigger picture and we all need to do our part until more of the population is vaccinated. Walz is doing the best he can in these very turbulent times.

Debora Anthony, Coon Rapids
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This letter is in response to one from Dec. 18: The Star Tribune could do its readers a great service by printing the names of any and all businesses that are defying the governor's reopening ban, so that we know which businesses and restaurants to frequent and which do deserve our future patronage. Touche!

Pamela Norcutt, Waconia
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A few weeks ago I saw an iconic graphic; it was a map of Minnesota broken out by county with those with bad COVID infection rates colored green and those with terrible rates colored red. There was a giant green "U" running south from the Canadian border almost to Iowa, but all the border counties were bright red.

I can sympathize with business owners who complain that closing them down just sends their customers across borders to states not much interested in public health, but the blame shouldn't be placed on Gov. Walz. It should be placed on the lack of a coherent national policy thereby allowing some states to become toxic swamps.

It's worth looking north to Canada (which is keeping most Americans out); it has a COVID death rate of 377 per million while the U.S. rate is 981 per million. This shows the difference between a federal policy and the lack of one.

John Sherman, Moorhead, Minn.

With effort, reform could work

I read with great interest the commentary from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo in the Dec. 19 Opinion Exchange ("Here's my vision for the Minneapolis Police Dept."). I liked the general description of his vision and look forward to more details about the implementation of these ideas. Perhaps he could keep us posted with biweekly or monthly news conferences so the subject is more front and center in the minds of citizens of Minneapolis.

I am especially interested in hearing more about the training of new recruits as well as the ongoing training, education and evaluation of current members of the police force. How do you teach discretion to new recruits and even veterans on the force when to use deadly force only as the very last step after taking many intervening steps? How do you train the force to have a "peacekeepers" mind-set instead of a "warrior" one? Could an appointed citizens committee with training/teaching experience watch to see firsthand how the recruits are being taught? Does the training program include building skills to partner with other community safety professionals?

Being an effective police officer demands a wide range of skills to be used in a wide variety of situations. So we ask a lot from them. We as citizens need to do our part in maintaining overall community safety. One specific way is to help pressure the state Legislature to change the arbitration rules so that the chief has all the authority he needs to build an effective force. Also, we as taxpayers need to be ready to provide additional resources required to make all of this happen. This is not the time to underinvest in the Police Department.

John Crosby, Minneapolis
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The argument of the "defund" crowd is that reform has been tried many times, has not worked and will not work this time. I agree with the history in part. In fact, I wrote a commentary in the Star Tribune this summer documenting the sad failure of reform movements going back to Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza and Mayor Don Fraser in early '80s.

There are, however, reasons to believe it can be different this time. One is the vision of the chief, much of which we see in his essay. This chief has credibility many of his predecessors lacked, credibility that comes from his professionalism and, yes, his ethnicity. Another is that George Floyd's death has opened the eyes of almost everyone in the city, including many people who have not paid attention before, to the desperate need for reform. There is public support, even insistence, for reform that never existed in previous attempts.

Seattle had a capable and visionary chief who, however, had no support from her utopian City Council, and she left. Let's not let that happen here.

David J. Therkelsen, Minneapolis

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