Daily Reformer: What are we trying to accomplish with stay-at-home?

State Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, left, and state Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, both lost their endorsement races Thursday to challengers, Omar Fateh and Esther Agbaje.

Good morning. Happy Mother’s Day to all the great ones in my life and yours.

What’s the goal? That’s the question I’ve been posing this week as we see more unemployment claims while confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Minnesota. 

What exactly are Gov. Tim Walz’s policies hoping to achieve? No deaths until vaccine? That seems unrealistic. So what’s the point of easing restrictions in two weeks as opposed to now, from a public health perspective

A senior administration official told me the restrictions’ goal was to give the state enough time to develop necessary infrastructure: PPE, hospital beds, ventilators. 

That’s mostly done. If you get sick, you get a bed and if needed a ventilator, and hospitals have enough PPE so that Walz was able this week to lift the restrictions on elective surgeries. 

Next, the administration source told me, they want to use the best data to stop hotspots. You do this by shutting down certain activities that are likely to lead to outbreaks. Let’s say a crowded nightclub. It’s not always going to be consistent. Meatpacking plants are a total disaster, but people need food. (More on that subject in the Reformer early next week.)

Then they’re trying to ramp up “test and trace,” so they can track outbreaks and limit them. 

My educated guess: No more stay-at-home order after May 18. (Minnesotans aren’t doing a particularly good job of social distancing anymore anyway, Fox9 reports.) Retail comes back. Restaurants at limited capacity for now. 

My amateur virologist opinion is that low risk outdoor activities like youth baseball ought to be allowed. The State Fair, by contrast, with everyone bumping up against one another and then returning to their home communities around the state? It’s not happening.   

The most difficult situation will be churches. Large assemblies of older Minnesotans breathing the same air. Not good, but the politics of stopping church services are ugly. And for good reason. People need it. 

I asked about the sideline carping, including attacks on Walz for stuff like, why is Target open but my Main Street hardware store isn’t? 

“It’s the 100 year flood. It’s not fair. From a purely public health standpoint it’s not safe for Target to be open either but we’re not closing Target. That’s insane. The governor doesn’t want to be in this situation, but he is.”   

What’s most distressing to me is that our tests per million population remain appallingly low, especially relative to our vaunted health care reputation and all the hoo-ha about the “moon-shot” that was supposed to get us up to 35,000 per week. 


The presidential campaign has come into focus this week. You should read this February piece by McKay Coppins to get a sense for what it’s going to be about: The Trump operation was always going to be the most expensive disinformation campaign in American and maybe world history. 

“Christopher Wylie, who was the director of research at Cambridge Analytica and later testified about the company to Congress, told me that “with the right kind of nudges,” people who exhibited certain psychological characteristics could be pushed into ever more extreme beliefs and conspiratorial thinking. ‘Rather than using data to interfere with the process of radicalization, Steve Bannon was able to invert that,’ Wylie said. ‘We were essentially seeding an insurgency in the United States.’”

The pandemic has only made more extreme propagandizing and conspiratorial messaging more important as the death toll mounts. Trump now blames China for the pandemic daily. (Even as he cozied up to them earlier in the year.) He’s going to start questioning the mortality data, as his surrogates already are on Fox News (sometimes with MN Sen. Scott Jensen’s help!) He’ll blame Democratic governors. The media. Maybe he’ll even latch on to “The Plandemic,” the loony conspiracy video taken down from social media sites but only after millions absorbed and shared it and made its creator Judy Mikovits a best selling author. (Politifact) The Russians will be involved in the effort. 

Much of it will happen out of your line of vision, if you’re a healthy, decent person. As we pointed out yesterday, the Trump campaign has created a cocooned world for their followers.

It’s a little like a pandemic, except it’s attacking our democracy instead of our bodies.

Walken dancin’.

Closer to home

Why you read Daily Reformer: Feb 26, in which we quoted a DFL source. “Incumbents like Rep. Ray Dehn and Sen. Jeff Hayden may be in trouble.”

Indeed: both Hayden and Dehn lost their party endorsements Thursday to second generation immigrants, Omar Fateh and Esther Agbaje, respectively. (Ricardo Lopez reporting.) Fateh is a systems analyst at the U; Agbaje is an attorney.  

No surprise: Both incumbents say the process was flawed and may go to a primary.  

I’m not in the ‘wait-your-turn’ school of thought that discourages challenges to incumbents; they’re healthy and small-d democratic. But party conventions — especially under these circumstances — are ridiculous, and there’s no reason anyone should feel obligated to abide by them. In the Hayden-Fateh race, for instance, there were only 582 votes cast. 

From a policy standpoint, Hayden has a lot of experience with the complexities of health and human services that the caucus may need, come January. 

Some strong offerings today in the Reformer

Max Nesterak on Met Council fencing in a homeless encampment. Max, who has owned the story of how COVID-19 is affecting the homeless, helps us understand this very complex problem. Read deep into the story to see some classic bureaucratic shirking. 

And Lee Blons of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative urges the Legislature to pass $100 million in rental assistance but then go further and get serious about the 555,000 Minnesotans paying more than a third of their income in rent. 

Before I came to the Reformer I had a very different frame on the housing issue, having come of age during the crash in Las Vegas, when there was a massive glut of housing and sinking rents. I’ve been educated quickly, not just about the problem but also the huge upside if we do something about it, including on issues like education. 


This looks like a good long read: Inside the nightmare voyage of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. 

Good news (sort of.) Ahmaud Arberry’s killers were quickly arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation after they took over the case. Cristine Almeida reports on Twitter that people around the country are running 2.3 miles in his honor this weekend. (He was out for a jog when they hunted him down.) 

This should be an annual, silent event to honor those killed by racial terror.

Finally, as several of their fans noted, there was a terrible typo in Thursday’s Daily Reformer: It’s Creedence. Here’s Jeff Lebowski jammin’ out to them

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Have a great weekend everyone. JPC