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When first confronted by the COVID-19 enemy, we understood little but had to act fast. We shut down major parts of our economy because leaders saw no better choice. But scientists and modelers can’t answer every question that must be considered.

Imagine waking up some day, trying to shake our economy awake and getting no meaningful response. America can’t survive without a healthy economy, and we’re learning that unemployment and poverty also produce “body counts.” Hence, our concern for livelihoods has pulled up alongside our concern for lives. We’re realizing a balance must be struck between competing priorities.

It’s folly to employ uniform recovery procedures while facing vastly different situations across the country. Just 10 states account for almost 75% of deaths, and most counties have had no deaths. New York and Florida have similar statewide populations, but their infection and death rates vary significantly.

Our founders understood the value of state and local authority in situations like this. We have 50 different governments working somewhat separately for the best way to restart the economy. These states are our “laboratories” of pandemic recovery. We’ll witness successes and failures, and we’ll learn from those. We’ll learn when and how we should come out of our caves — or maybe we’ll learn that caves don’t work.

I don’t know whether the health crisis or the economic crisis will be the sustaining memory from 2020. I do know we’ll better understand what economist Thomas Sowell meant by: “There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs.”

Steve Bakke, Edina

BARS AND RESTAURANTS

Without patrons, they need cash

I think it is wonderful that so many people are willing to donate to the owner of a Stearns County bar and restaurant who tried to reopen, money he is using for his legal fees (“State, bar clash in reopening showdown,” May 19). Perhaps they have signaled to us the best way to help these small businesses reeling from this disease: Send a check to however many you can.

Right now, cash is what will save them. Buying gift certificates will also work, if you stipulate that you do not want a refund if the business does not survive. That way, those who can afford it can help save others in dire straits. Hopefully the owners will pass some along to their employees. It becomes a win-win, without putting anyone’s health at risk.

BRUCE BLUMENTHAL, Edina

PUBLIC RESTRICTIONS

Certainty is not safety

While I can appreciate a letter writer’s confusion over stay-at-home restrictions (“Cheers to vexing ambiguity,” May 19), she proposes seeking certainty by visiting Wisconsin bars and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with crowds of cheeseheads who are foregoing masks and social distancing, as recent photos indicate.

Well, she will find certainty — in that she will expose herself to COVID-19 carriers. That being the case, I beg her to either remain in Wisconsin or self-quarantine on her return to St. Paul.

Charles E. Dean, Apple Valley

• • •

Some churches are suing to overturn the ban on large gatherings, saying that their freedom of religion is being threatened (“Two churches ask judge to let them open,” May 19). They apparently think it is their right to put themselves in physical danger in order to conduct their services, and some have said that they are confident that the power of God will keep them safe.

For many years, other religious groups have handled poisonous snakes as part of their rituals, believing that their faith will protect them. These groups claim the right to endanger themselves in the practice of their religion. But the snake-handlers do not go out in public and hand their deadly serpents to passersby. However, that is exactly what the people suing to continue their large gatherings would be doing. They would be passing a deadly organism among the congregation and then taking it out in public, spreading it to innocent people and putting them in mortal danger.

If churches want to conduct large gatherings, fine. Just don’t ever leave the church. Keep the snakes inside.

Mark Bradley, Roseville

PARTISANSHIP

Do appeals to sanity break through?

Thanks to former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger and Tom Horner for their eloquent call for Republicans to restore their party’s noble ideology (“Minnesota Republicans, what are you going to do?” Opinion Exchange, May 15). Also clearly stated was a call for an end to partisan squabbling, as evidenced in their support for Joe Biden for president. As a lifelong “liberal,” I found their reasoned comments very heartening. (I define “liberal” as one who believes that government — despite imperfections — generally works toward the commonweal.)

But my cynical side cautioned me. I quickly imagined their idealistic appeal to be unrealistic. In these stressful times, the rational statement by these gentlemen is often drowned out by emotional irrationality. These gentlemen display a positive philosophy, not drawn into the rancor seen on both sides of the political spectrum these days. Will their appeal resonate with the millions of those who are desperate for solutions — people who are not only Republicans, but Democrats and independents as well? I hope so, but I’m worried that theirs may be a lone voice in the wilderness.

Richard Masur, Minneapolis

PANDEMIC THEOLOGY

Thanks for the thoughtful reflection

I appreciated the commentary by Mark Tranvik (“God speaks to us in the challenges he sends,” Opinion Exchange, May 18). The author invites readers to reflect on the question of what God might be saying to the world through the current pandemic.

I am curious that the author can maintain, simultaneously, that God is working to win our attention through COVID-19 and also that the virus is “nature at its darkest.” It seems to me that the virus would either be regarded as the work of God or else a phenomenon of nature.

Nevertheless, I am grateful to the writer for raising questions about everyday priorities and “the great myth of self-sufficiency” challenged by the crisis. Over the past two months, we have been overwhelmed with medical, scientific, logistical and political details about the virus. Tranvik’s theological reflection on the meaning of this trauma is appropriate for people of faith.

Greg Gabriel, Lincoln, Neb.

• • •

I am a trained “forest bathing” guide, and I thought Tranvik made a number of insightful points about how people of faith might respond to the coronavirus.

But I thought he was out of line when he stated that “nature bathing” is a sentimental term, claiming that the earth becomes the cleansing source of life itself, possessing the power and strength to make us “whole.”

Shinrin-yoku (translation: “forest bathing”) is a mindfulness practice that was developed in Japan during the 1980s, becoming a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. As guides we do not claim that it makes us “whole” or replaces God; rather, among other benefits, it affords participants an opportunity to come closer to God by being quietly mindful in his magnificent creation called nature.

TOM BEZEK, Minneapolis

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