When the thunderstorms rolled through last weekend, our power was knocked out for a couple of hours. Fifteen minutes into the darkness, the batteries in our emergency radio died and one of the flashlights was looking pretty anemic. We had spares.

Of late, we have all been appropriately super-focused on COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean all of the other potential ills of this world will give us a pass. Severe storm season is right around the corner. How are the batteries in your radio? And amid all of this, did you remember to change the smoke detector batteries? Take a few minutes to assess your emergency readiness and make a list for your next trek for supplies. Get the kids involved — it may not be the mainstream “three R’s,” but emergency preparation is a lesson that will benefit them their whole lives.

Lawrence Merwin, Woodbury


We can take time to condemn it

Writer John Kass seems to think that, in the midst of the pandemic crisis, we are a “silly people wasting time agonizing over who may have been insulted by someone calling it the ‘Chinese virus’ ” instead of having the toughness to deal with the crisis (“Now we’ll see what America is truly made of,” Opinion Exchange, March 20).

If Kass studied history, he’d realize that people are frequently prone to follow their worst and most prejudiced instincts during a crisis. It never has been all heroic “pulling together”; that tends to be the propaganda of the moment or the later whitewashing of our historical memory. Red Scares and white race riots targeting African-American communities following both world wars show what racism can result in when people are afraid. In fact, a recent article on The Hill discusses the rise of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese behavior since this crisis began. So it matters if government officials contribute to the rise in bigotry. And yes, it must be condemned.

It probably comes as a shock to most of us on the left to learn that we have taken over American culture. From where I sit, the rise in power has been on the right.

Let me reassure Kass and his readers: Liberals are capable of expressing outrage over bigotry and following sensible precautions during the coronavirus outbreak at the same time (we can multi-task). And our sensitivity to the feelings and rights of others may even prevent some of us from fighting over and hoarding toilet paper!

Diane Ring, Edina


China botched it, but so did we

The Chinese Communist Party not quickly announcing it had a pandemic on its hands has little bearing on our handling of the pandemic.

We know authoritarian regimes keep secrets within their borders and from their own people. We know that China is a breeding ground for life-threatening viruses.

Because quick action is required to stem a pandemic, an epidemiologist had been an important part of our diplomatic mission in China. By working with epidemiologists there, that doctor could stay on top of any outbreak.

Unfortunately, this early warning system was taken offline when the position was eliminated last July. However, our intelligence services were at work. In early January they informed President Donald Trump of the risk the growing pandemic posed.

Rather than mobilize against the virus, Trump classified meetings about it. He downplayed news about the virus and touted the economy as the threat grew.

Trump gave the virus a six-week head start in our country compared with South Korea, which had its first case the same day we did. Despite the dense population of its cities, South Korea has been able to effectively contain the virus to fewer than 10,000 cases.

We don’t have the level of testing it had over a month ago. We have more than 150,000 COVID-19 cases and could have 10,000 deaths from it within a couple weeks.

Carl Lee, Minnetonka


We’re a month late to our shutdown

As a veterinarian trained in herd health management and control of contagious diseases, I know the first rule is containment. If the U.S. had applied this basic principle a month ago, giving citizens time to get home and sequester there before a three- to four-week total shutdown of all road, air, sea and rail travel, many lives would surely have been saved as well as the now-escalating containment and treatment costs and equipment shortages. This with the proviso that effective tests would be available for individuals at home who may have contracted the COVID-19 infection along with their exposed family members.

Michael W. Fox, Golden Valley

• • •

What Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order harms most is liberty. “Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures,” staunch proponents will surely reply, but extraordinary measures often conceal extraordinary harms, and this is what worries me.

It is during extraordinary times, after all, when we must be most vigilant in protecting American freedoms. With a militant response, are we? In Wuhan, to combat the virus, the Chinese government instituted unheard-of restrictions upon personal liberties, even by China’s standards, which some leaders here in the U.S. now laud.

I am still reeling from the vast overreach of the Patriot Act. Might this new conditioning of American behavior through shelter orders and the like, both here in Minnesota and elsewhere, be some grand pretext for future retractions to American liberties much like after 9/11?

Paranoid you say? We’ll see.

Julia Bell, St. Paul


A little levity amid a pandemic

In response to the current situation, I present “A Coronavirus Alphabet”:

A’s for America, down on its knees

B is for Boris, who started to sneeze

C’s for corona, the Word of the Day

D’s for dystopia, it’s going that way

E’s for evangelicals, who think it’s God’s will

F is for Fauci, who tells us we’re ill

G is for government, bailing us out

H is for hysteria, we’re having a bout

I’s for isolation, so please stay inside

J’s for jammies, which you wear with no pride

K is for “koffing,” though here it’s misspelled

L is for local, where we’ll stay till it’s quelled

M is for Mardi Gras, a big viral hot spot

N is for nurses, must thank them a lot!

O’s for Obama, I wish he was prez

P’s for pandemic, what the CDC says

Q is for quarantine, that’s what we’re in

R’s for restricted, what our movements have been

S is for society, stunned past belief

T is for Trump, our Denier-in-Chief

U is for ugly, it’s gonna get bad

V is for virus, it’s spreading like mad

W’s for washing your hands, that’s the aim

X is for xenophobes, with someone to blame

Y is for yesterday, when we weren’t in a stew

Z is for zero, which is what we can do

'cept for hand washing, distancing and trying not to feel blue.

Chaz Truog, Minneapolis



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