Daily Reformer: You had a nice life grandma, but we need to get back to making widgets

Armando Quintero, general manager of La Raza, a Spanish radio station in the Twin Cities, said the station has frequently cut into its programming to deliver updates on the coronavirus epidemic. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

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This morning in the Reformer

Ricardo Lopez on Minnesota’s efforts, helped by foreign language media,TPT and others, to get information out to non-native speakers

And a biologist and two Indigenous activists argue in a guest commentary that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s cancellation of public hearings on Enbridge Line 3 gives the agency an even greater obligation to get public comment, including delaying permitting until they do so. 

It was a bracing morning Monday after I sent out Daily Reformer, as we learned that a member of Gov. Tim Walz’s security detail caught COVID-19 and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s husband is hospitalized for it, Ricardo reported. And we reported Monday here, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan lost her brother to the disease. 

Max Nesterak was quick out of the gate Monday with a story on Walz placing a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. But Walz is not quite there on a “shelter-in-place” order, Rilyn Eischens reports

Rilyn’s piece indicates Walz seems to be relying on expertise, for which we can be thankful. 

On the other hand: 

President Donald Trump seems poised to call off measures to keep sectors of the economy shuttered to prevent COVID-19’s further spread. Daily Beast talked to a bunch of the outside advisers Trump talks to, including Newt Gingrich and Arthur Laffer. 

Ah yes, it’s time for the expert texperts to step aside and let the real men — it’s nearly all men, isn’t it? — take over. A chorus of them has stepped forward to declare the silly business is finished and it’s time to get back to work. 

Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs

Extreme measures to flatten the virus “curve” is sensible — for a time — to stretch out the strain on health infrastructure. But crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue — and beyond. Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work.

Minnesota native Thomas Friedman also weighed in, using the cliche that was later used by Trump: Is the cure worse than the disease? 

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was on Fox and ghoulishly said plenty of grandparents would be willing to sacrifice themselves to help the country get moving again. 

(“Go to the Olive Garden, son. Those unlimited breadsticks are my final gift to you.”)

What’s darkly amusing about all this — and I mean really dark — is that it’s unlikely to work. It’s not like you get to choose between economic growth and containing the virus. You can’t have economic growth until you contain the virus. 

Via my former Vegas colleague Dylan Scott, now at Vox: Check out the hospitalization rate for people aged 30-49 who contracted the virus in Spain: 20%. That’s a lot!

The CDC uses different age cohorts, but it’s not better: In the 20-44 age range, 14.3 percent who contract the virus are hospitalized. That’s one out of seven. For people in their later 40s and 50s, it gets worse. 

In the 45 to 54 age range, the CDC reports 21.2 percent have been hospitalized, 5.4 percent were put in the ICU, and 0.5 percent have died. For people 55 to 64, 20.5 percent have been hospitalized, 4.7 percent ended up in the ICU, and 1.4 percent died. For the oldest folks in this group, ages 65 to 74, hospitalizations (28.6 percent), ICU stays (8.1 percent) and deaths (2.7 percent) continue to trend upward.

What kind of economy do you have when those kinds of numbers among working age people are going to the hospital?

And what kind of hospital do you have?

And also, plot this on a graph: on March 11 we had about 1,000 confirmed cases. Monday we had 42,000 confirmed cases. How’s your math? 

McKay Coppins, who is a shrewd observer of the right, notes that response to the pandemic is soon to become culture war fodder

“Some of this is already happening, obviously, but it seems like very soon, social distancing is going to be treated by many primarily as a political act — a way of signaling which ‘side’ you’re on.”

I’m on the side of not liking my odds when 20 percent of the people in my age group are going to the hospital if they catch coronavirus. I spent altogether too much time in my 20s and 30s in smoky bars to be nonchalant about this.  

Finally, I shared a bit of Thucydides the other day. The Athenian soldier-historian provided a bracing description of the plague that befell the ancient democracy. Loyola Chicago classics professor Katherine Kelaidis writes about it in The Atlantic this week. I recommend you read the entire thing, but here’s her conclusion: 

The Great Plague of Athens wrote the first chapter in the end of Athenian democracy, but we do not need to accept its fate. The best thing about the past is that it can be our instructor, even if we seldom allow it to be. The ancient Greeks, by and large, believed that virtue was something you practiced. Like most everyone who lived before the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thucydides and his contemporaries did not believe that we are born good. We become good by choosing to do good. We become brave by choosing courage. We overcome the twin vices of self-interest and fear by actively rejecting them. The ancient Athenians failed to do this in the face of a plague and lost their democracy. Now the same choice is ours.

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Have a good day all!