I am greatly concerned that the focus on our state’s official positive case count is misleading.

First, restrictions on testing access limit how well we can detect the disease. Since COVID-19 causes mild symptoms in many of those infected, those most at risk for inadvertently spreading the virus to others are not eligible for testing. And, even if they do seek care, they cannot be counted as a case without a test. Second, although the Minnesota Department of Health has worked tirelessly, there remains a huge testing delay. This means that when a positive test gets reported today, it represents a sample possibly collected as long as one week ago.

Also, having few critically ill patients in Minnesota should not be reassuring. Patients seem to become seriously ill late in the disease course. As seen elsewhere, the surge of critically ill patients who can overwhelm the health care system arrives weeks after COVID-19 is first detected locally. And in those weeks the disease spreads exponentially. Exponential growth is explosive growth. Data from other countries suggest that the number of people infected in the population seems to double every two to three days. Thus, our burden of disease today is assuredly much higher than what is being officially reported. The cat is likely already out of the bag.

Until rapid and widely available testing is available, extreme social distancing appears to be the only way to halt the spread of this virus and prevent the explosion of disease. I therefore support our local leaders in moving forward with a plan to shelter in place for at least the next two weeks. This would dramatically slow ongoing local spread of the coronavirus and buy the health care system time to absorb the surge of sick patients we will likely see in the coming weeks.

Dr. Joe Mayerle, Edina

The writer is an emergency physician.

• • •

As I am sitting at my sewing machine cranking out coronavirus masks, I ask myself: How is it that the richest nation on earth is reduced to this? It’s relying on random people who happen to sew to stem the tide like the proverbial boy with his finger in the dike. Where is the federal response? (“Come to the rescue of health providers,” editorial, March 25.) We are getting promises of great quantities of personal protective equipment, and yet doctors and nurses are begging for help. This is a national embarrassment at best, a tragedy for thousands of people at worst.

Elaine Watson, Plymouth

• • •

The COVID-19 virus started in China, but it might have originated anywhere. Chinese scientists have been studying it for several months and may be the first to develop a vaccine and treatment.

President Donald Trump has a xenophobic bent, has imposed punitive tariffs and is now casting blame on China. What incentive does the Chinese government have to share its knowledge if a cure is discovered?

Even worse, the Trump administration is isolationist. Instead of accepting coronavirus test kits developed by the World Health Organization, precious weeks were wasted while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created its own. If Chinese scientists publish a cure, it will no doubt be suspect.

Nationalistic fervor is an obstacle to this pandemic. Collaboration of scientific information, worldwide, is imperative if we are to stop it.

Diane Stannard, Hudson, Wis.

• • •

Earlier in the week, my friend Wayne baked cookies and left them in zip-lock bags in front of apartment doors at his end of our building. Then he invited his neighbors to sit out in front of their apartments at 3 p.m. to enjoy some time together. The next day, several of us stood out in the hall singing “Happy Birthday” to another neighbor. Some people who chose to stay in their apartments could be heard singing behind closed doors. Upstairs in our party room, another neighbor and her husband will be sponsoring matinee and evening showing of classic movies several times a week but limited to five moviegoers at a time.

There are ways to keep a sense of community alive during this time of social distancing.

Iric Nathanson, Minneapolis

• • •

Trump, by asking the key question of when to lift the restrictions on the country and the economy, has done us a favor (“State jobless up 150,000,” March 25). Although condemned by some in the media and some Democrats, this is an essential question for this nation that must be answered by the wise and informed. In other words, not by the press or the political hacks left or right. We need to consider and determine what is proper and ethical time to return to “normal life.” Setting April 12 as a date to allow free interaction will and should force all of us involved to consider: April? May? June? 2021? 2050?

Do we remain in quarantine until a vaccine is available? This vaccine is likely 12 to 18 months away.

Do we open parts of the country and constrain other parts?

How do we limit contamination to “safe regions” from regions such as California, Washington and New York?

Regardless of your political view: What is the criteria to move forward and when should it occur?

Mark Fairbairn, Red Wing, Minn.

• • •

Here’s another opportunity for families to spend time in the great outdoors as we shelter at home. Register at spotthestation.nasa.gov to sign up for e-mails or text messages informing you when the International Space Station is going over your home or a nearby park. You can also look for constellations (Sky Map is a useful app for constellations) while you wait for the space station to appear, watch for shooting stars and enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the night sky.

Linda and Doug Nordang, Clear Lake, Minn.

POLYMET

Funny how mine advocates only like the ‘process’ when it favors them

The disappointment expressed by pro-mining Jobs for Minnesotans is not surprising (“Court tosses PolyMet air permit,” March 24). What is somewhat surprising is the group’s being “increasingly concerned” that the courts are overturning “regulatory authority.”

Welcome to Civics 101. Back in elementary school, we learned about our three branches of government and how they are supposed to keep “checks and balances” — one on the other. Here, we have a perfect example of how the system is designed to work. Here, the executive branch (regulatory) — given incomplete information by PolyMet — underperformed. Concerned citizens sought “balance” from the judiciary. One has to presume that the court heard expert testimony — contrary to what Jobs for Minnesotans implied in its statement.

And, of course, we can predict that if Jobs for Minnesotans gets future relief from unfair regulation through the courts, we probably won’t hear any complaining about lack of judicial authority or qualifications.

Richard Masur, Minneapolis

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