In recent weeks, Republican legislators and President Donald Trump have increased pressure on governors to reopen state economies and lift stay-at-home orders. Some Republican senators in the Minnesota Legislature have made the argument that stay-at-home orders should be lifted to prevent increased deaths from suicide and domestic violence. This argument implies that it is shelter-in-place restrictions that are endangering people and need to be addressed, rather than poverty, unemployment and the lack of viable alternatives to living independently of an abuser.
Rather than lifting stay-at-home restrictions as a solution to the problem of domestic violence, why not actually take action to address relationship violence by ratifying the expired Violence Against Women Act, which stalled in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate? Concerns about domestic violence should be addressed through actions such as the CARES Act, which ensured $45 million of funding for domestic abuse shelters and programs to make services available to survivors.
Lifting shelter-in-place restrictions will not solve the problem of relationship violence, nor will it relieve the pressures faced by families given the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Ensuring that adequate resources are available to meet the needs of people experiencing violence and that these resources remain accessible whether under COVID-19 restrictions or not is what is needed.
Mina Chung, St. Paul
Protesting just lengthens lockdown
Protesters of Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order are being foolish and irresponsible. While the desire to “return to normal” is understandable, their methods will delay, not hasten that goal (“For Trump and allies, virus is wedge issue,” front page, April 18). Data are clear that participation in large gatherings increases the risk of spread of coronavirus. Therefore, we can expect a spike in new COVID-19 cases among protesters in about two weeks. Sadly, this is right about the time we are currently looking to meet the first criterion for reopening the economy — a two-week period of decline in new cases. The clock will need to be reset. Once protesters become infected, there will be additional consequences as they expose health care professionals to the virus and consume scarce testing and therapeutic resources.
However, despite their reckless behavior, their illnesses will be treated and their needs met because ... we are all in this together.
Diane W. Barnett, Edina
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The man holding the sign “Be like Sweden” pictured in the Star Tribune on Saturday was one of the approximately 800 crowded protesters in front of the governor’s residence. It is hard to believe he really understands its message.
The total number of confirmed deaths in Sweden (1,580 as of Monday afternoon) is greater than the total for all of Denmark (364), Norway (181), and Finland (98). The death rate in Sweden is 156 per million compared with Denmark (63 per million) or Finland (18 per million). The Swedish approach of loose social isolation failed miserably.
Also, Sweden is a socialist country with health care for all. Is he wanting us to have a very high death rate and Medicare for All?
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said that he trusts Minnesotans to comply with guidelines without a strict quarantine. The protesters are not complying now, so what hope is there that they will in the future?
Ilo E. Leppik, Golden Valley
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I moved to St. Paul from New York City three months ago. I never felt as unsafe in the city of my birth as I did here on Friday.
I was appalled and saddened to encounter the “Liberate Minnesota” protest while walking to an essential appointment. Not only by the demonstrators, who willfully disobeyed a government order they find illegitimate and unfair by gathering in proximity without wearing face coverings. But more by the police officers who milled around and the individual officer who, when questioned by a passerby about why the department wasn’t enforcing social distancing, shrugged and said, “What can you do?” This was not local police departments’ take on the protests of the shooting of Jamar Clark or the 2017 protests of the acquittal of the officer who killed Philando Castile. Police officers apparently knew “what to do” in response to those demonstrations, where they acted affirmatively — many would say aggressively — to clear public spaces, in the purported interest of protecting the public peace.
I mentioned that I moved to St. Paul three months ago. I am also, as it happens, three months pregnant. Like many immunocompromised people, I don’t look it. Why didn’t the police enforce the law and protect me and my vulnerable neighbors on Friday?
Emma Rebhorn, St. Paul
Keep the parkways closed to traffic
An April 17 article reported Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Brad Bourn’s decision to reopen Lake Harriet Parkway to motorized traffic on April 20 (“Mpls. flips parkway closures”). This parkway was closed late in March to allow pedestrians more room for social distancing. His rationale was that older people with limited physical mobility and compromised autoimmune systems could enjoy the lake from the safety of their automobiles.
While his concerns for this group are certainly appreciated (I am of that age myself), the safety of the public should be the primary consideration of any and all Park Board action. And this move flunks that standard. Even with the option of walking neighboring streets, Lake Harriet will, as usual, attract large crowds during the warmer months ahead, especially during these troubling times. So I would suggest that Bourn reconsider his decision. His limiting of walking and running again to a very busy path will increase the possibility of contracting COVID-19. And that is not the direction we should be going ... at all. All Park Board policies must try to make us all safer.
J.R. Clark, Minneapolis
Reopen, but plan for complications
I agree with what U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer and state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka wrote about how to reopen Minnesota’s economy (“Let’s work together on a plan to reopen Minnesota’s economy,” Opinion Exchange, April 18). However, I think there are additional issues that need to be considered by both businesses and lawmakers. First, what are employees going to do about child care, not just for the children who are below school age but also for those between the ages of 6 and 11 who would normally be in school? This is also an issue for those children age 12 to 18.
The second issue that needs to be addressed is employees who are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Those over age 60 or with pre-existing conditions, even smokers, may not feel safe going back to work. Can they continue to get unemployment compensation if they decide not to return to their place of employment for this reason?
The third issue is one of sick leave. Many of those returning to work are going to get the virus. If an employee gets COVID-19, they will be need to be out of work even if they are asymptomatic. Is the employer willing to pay sick leave for these employees for the duration of their illness?
Figuring out how to keep employees and customers safe is only part of the equation. Businesses and lawmakers have a responsibility to fill in the rest of the puzzle.
Maggie O’Groske, Minneapolis
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