Daily Reformer: A COVID-19 travelogue

loves and fishes
A volunteer distributes free meals with Loaves and Fishes in Bloomington in March 2020. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Good morning. (Sign up to receive Daily Reformer to your in-box here.)

The Legislature will effectively recess for a month, conducting limited business related to COVID-19 and only with approval of all legislative leaders: MPR, Bakst. I’m trying to envision the best and worst lawmakers to take care of my near 3 year old because his school is about to close. I’ll take your nominations: [email protected] 

(Who wouldn’t want the doctor caucus to care for their little one? Rep. Steve Drazkowski and Sen. Tom Bakk could teach him to kill and dress a deer, and that seems like it would be useful. He could really use the timeless truths of Judaism that Rep. Frank Hornstein could teach him. House Speaker Melissa Hortman worked at a junkyard, and being speaker is a little like having many toddlers, tbh.) 

Schools close Wednesday, our politics reporter Ricardo Lopez reports. A tough call, obviously. We’ve gotten conflicting information about children and COVID-19, and experts say children are not suffering the same severity of symptoms of the disease, but they are getting it and transmitting it at the same rates. And closing schools has shown to be effective in previous pandemics. This creates a ton of issues, obviously, especially for parents who still need to work. This could be especially difficult in communities of color. We’ll be following this story closely. 

Elsewhere on the Reformer: 

The U.S. House passed a COVID-19 relief bill with support from President Donald Trump; Rep. Tom Emmer was one of 40 nays. Allison Stevens reporting from the States Newsroom D.C. bureau

Health economist Rep. Jennifer Schultz on the policies we need to put in place to confront the crisis — and the policies we should have put in place years ago.

Max Nesterak on the problem of the pandemic in homeless shelters. Minnesotans experiencing homelessness often have compromised immune systems — and their living arrangements and constant search for shelter make them efficient vectors of communicable disease.  

The Federal Reserve slashed rates to near zero: NYTimes. Markets again tumbling. 

My impression from conversations, social media and pictures from around the country of people going about their business is that there’s a very large segment of the population that thinks it’s all much ado about nothing. And possibly a media frenzy intended to help Joe Biden get elected president. 

The Trump administration’s Centers for Disease Control disagrees, calling for a ban on all events of more than 50 people. 

The nation’s leading authority on infectious disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, appeared on all five Sunday morning news shows, in what is known as “The Full Ginsberg,” coined after William Ginsburg, lawyer for Monica Lewinsky, appeared on all five shows in 1998. 

Fauci told the nation that we need to “hunker down” and we may need to shut down for 14 days. He also urged younger people to do their part by social distancing to protect older citizens, among whom the COVID death rate is downright scary — nearly 15 percent for people over 80.

Credit where it’s due: Voters take cues from elected officials in their party. Amid all the hokum on Fox and talk radio about “It’s just the flu,” GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo has been a voice on the side of public health authorities, risking quite a bit of pushback from Republicans on social media.

“Regarding COVID-19 epidemic – The subject matter experts guidance to policy makers has already saved countless Minnesota lives. Those sharing that expertise deserve our praise/appreciation. The weeks ahead present challenges, but in the long run we will be fine. I promise.”

On the other hand, here’s former Rep. Jason Lewis, as reported by CityPages

“Take a deep breath, here, and talk about an oversell and buying opportunity. Obviously, the first thing most people tend to do in these situations is to panic and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I gotta get out of this,’ which is how other people get rich.”

Or, another idea: Take a deep breath. And then, before you say anything, take another deep breath. And another. And every time you feel the need to talk about making money off this miserable situation, just take a deep breath instead. 

Travelogue: I made the difficult decision to travel to Charleston, S.C. to attend the wedding of my nephew, the first of my parents’ 15 grandchildren to be married, and our largest family gathering since their 50th wedding anniversary. 

My flight went through LaGuardia in New York City, which has become ground zero of COVID-19. After large crowds gathered for weekend events and St. Patrick’s Day drinking — an embarrassing ritual, though a topic for another day — Mayor Bill de Blasio finally got whatever data he needed and shut the city down, limiting bars and restaurants to takeout only, the Times reports. 

Plane to New York was half empty. About one in 10 people had a mask, and there’s a clear hierarchy of masks, with some fitted to the face and appearing more comfortable and yet impervious. I’m filled with both envy at those with them and suspicion at everyone not wearing a mask, even though I’m not either. A woman in first class is wearing menacing looking black latex gloves, wiping down surfaces with disinfectant. 

Flying above New York City, you see mile after mile of apartment high rises, block after block, just perfect environments for communicable disease. I grew up 100 miles from here, and my father flew out of JFK. I have vivid memories of Yankees games and much later a West Village bar called the Fat Black Pussycat and the aftermath of 9/11. 

In the airport provisions store, the Economist headline is “The Politics of Pandemics.” The bars’ and restaurants’ touch screen ordering system now seems like an ill-advised innovation. Thankfully, weeks ago my wife stocked up on hand sanitizer and insisted I take two portable bottles with me. 

Airports without the usual crowds give off an ominous air; like you’ve hung around a country on the brink of war just a minute too long. The droning ambience of Sigur Rós’s “Sven G Englar” is somehow appropriate on the headphones.

I arrive in Charleston. I’m surprising my parents, and it works perfectly. But they would be in grave danger should they be infected. I’ve never been so aware of the human need for physical touch. 

Correspond: [email protected] Have a great day all. JPC