While it is important to look at issues from a broad perspective, the three state senators writing an open letter to Gov. Tim Walz and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm took issue with the definitions of “essential” and “nonessential” businesses in Minnesota related to the coronavirus problem (“Thoughtful rules could spare us loss and suffering,” Opinion Exchange, March 31). Their concern was that “winners and losers are unnecessarily and arbitrarily being determined.”
Their suggestion that “safe” vs. “unsafe” sites be used instead of “essential” vs. “nonessential” ones merely changes who the winners and losers are. They would still be determined using necessary and arbitrary factors. It is mainly a process to determine relative risk to the health of the population as a whole, which would have a long-term impact on society and its economic condition. Determining the degree of safe or unsafe that is tolerable should be the basis for defining what actions are acceptable, and it still would be open to disagreement by those who consider themselves the “losers.”
Keith Behnke, Eagan
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The piece by three Minnesota legislators was shocking in its naiveté and dangerous in its simplistic solutions. These men claim that allowing a solo hairdresser, for one, to stay in business during a pandemic will help the economy. Exactly how many heads of hair will she cut before she succumbs to the virus, and how long before her customers start to fall ill? The very thing that exposes us to the virus, proximity, is what a hairdresser has to live with in order to do the job.
As for their other example of allowing golfers to golf — ever been in a golf cart? That is not social distancing, and the number of people able to walk a course is probably too small to make a course viable during this pandemic. The cabinet makers, of course, can spread out in a cavernous space, and surely they will be able to do so again soon. But bringing out the blather about “Minnesotans don’t want ... handouts” and “winners and losers are ... being determined” as if this scramble to save our lives is some government overreach is just unbelievable. I suppose next they will be calling Walz a tax-and-spend Democrat.
Our elected state leaders have done a fabulous job in clearly stating the facts they have at the time, the policies they have chosen to address those facts and that these are terribly disruptive changes to all of our lives. They are temporary, and if we just use our brains and realize that we will recover, more of us will be alive to celebrate the end of this terrible illness. Including the solo hairdresser.
Cheryl Bailey, St. Paul
STAY AT HOME
Reopening is now a partisan debate
As the coronavirus first reached Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz took quick and decisive action, with limited public discussion, to close almost everything. A week or so later, President Donald Trump followed the lead of our and other governors. We will never know, and can never know, the wisdom of these decisive actions. But fortunately, these decisions were, mostly, nonpartisan.
Now we are entering the early stages of what will clearly be a longer, more public, and, unfortunately, much more partisan debate over when and how to reopen our society — the latter because we have the most polarizing president since Abraham Lincoln. And whether we are discussing reopening on May 1, Sept. 1 or Jan. 1, the debate will be predictable; Trump and those who love him will argue for reopening immediately, and those who hate him will insist on waiting.
This partisanship will prevent healthy debate around the risks and rewards of various timetables and will significantly hinder good decisionmaking. And that will be our loss.
John K. Trepp, Minneapolis
Who has the virus? We barely know.
For those of us Minnesotans frustrated by the lack of widespread coronavirus testing, the headline that the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic are working on a test for immunity after one has had COVID-19 was almost downright offensive (“Immunity test in works,” front page, March 31). Yes, knowing who now is immune can provide some helpful information, but we are in the eye of the storm and Minnesota is doing only sporadic COVID-19 testing. Minnesotans are denied tests unless they have symptoms, and yet we know that the virus is spread by those who are often asymptomatic. Our resources should be directed at this critical issue. Washington state has been doing drive-by testing for weeks; why can’t we?
The countries maintaining a low fatality rate from COVID-19, like South Korea and Germany, follow the proven formula of “test, trace, treat.” They test aggressively so even asymptomatic cases are identified early and isolated. Anyone who had contact is traced and informed.
Both Germany and South Korea have a robust public health system. But so do Italy and Spain, where the death rate is high, with hundreds of people dying every day. Italy and Spain delayed their coronavirus testing just like America has. In addition, Korea has 12.27 hospital beds per 1,000 citizens and Germany has 8. Italy has 3.18 and Spain has 2.97. America, the country that spends more on health care than anywhere in the world, has only 2.77 hospital beds per 1,000 citizens.
Our dedicated Department of Health officials, our wise governor and our health experts know that testing is the key to control this crisis. Social distancing can only do so much. We must know who has the virus at the earliest stages. That is where our resources should be directed.
Deborah Talen, Minneapolis
First responders are not safe
I am writing on behalf of my sister, a Minneapolis firefighter. I understand these are unusual times as we fight the coronavirus and that we were not prepared for the battle, but even so, it might surprise you to learn that Minneapolis firefighters still do not have enough protective gear for safety. New protocol requires reusing disposable N95 masks for at least five calls — firefighters are given a form on a brown paper bag to record name and runs before being issued a new mask, putting not only first responders but also those they serve at tremendous risk from contamination. Nevertheless, during a March 22 interview with WCCO, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey claimed the state’s first responders are well-equipped at this time. This leaves our family concerned that our mayor is not aware of the reality on the ground and how it gravely endangers not only firefighters and other first responders but all they serve.
You might not realize that firefighters are responding to more medical calls than fires these days. If those in your station are not kept healthy, they will be unable to serve in their calling, and the lives of you and your loved ones will be at serious risk. Is this the best that can be done for my sister and her fellow first responders in Minneapolis? How can multiple uses of disposable masks saved in paper bags ensure protection against the virus?
Therese Caouette, Hopkins
A doctor’s tip: Check voice mail
I have a simple request for all of us that can help with our health care during these difficult times. As a physician, I am providing so much care remotely, by telephone, during the COVID-19 emergency and am frequently encountering issues contacting people because their voice mail is full or not set up. This can result in a delay or even loss of care. As I have become aware of this, I am asking patients to check their voice mail or, if they don’t know how, to ask a family or friend to assist them.
Communication is vitally important, especially now. Please help your health care providers take care of you.
Kristin Elliott, Ironton, Minn.
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