SCENE: THE PRESS natters away, focusing their cameras and exchanging black-market hair stylists, waiting for a conference with POLITICS, GOVERNMENT and REALITY.
Shortly, the three enter the room and move to the podium. POLITICS – a dapper, 30-something man with CEO hair and a perfectly cut suit, steps to the microphone.
POLITICS: Welcome, and thank you all for coming out to this joint press conference. We’re going try to take this opportunity to clarify our mutual, cooperative response to the Covid virus in Minnesota. Before we take questions, I’d just like to say “We’re all One Minnesota, and we’re all in this together. (). Anything to add?”
(GOVERNMENT, a morbidly obese woman in a frizzy red “Karen” hairdo and a slightly long in the tooth pants suit, sticks her head awkwardly in front of POLITICS to get to the mike).
GOVERNMENT: I’d just like to add, that not are we all not in this together and practicing a second or subsequent Minnesota is subject to reporting, citation and arrest.
POLITICS: Thanks, Government! Anything to add, Reality?
(REALITY, a slovenly man resembling a larger, fatter Danny DiVito, wearing an ill-fitting red track suit and carrying a Jimmy Johns sandwich whose paper wrapper he’s been rolling down like the skin of a banana, nudges himself to the mike.
REALITY: This process has remorselessly worked its say down to a series of haves and have nots. (Shrugs)
POLITICS: Thanks. Again, we’re all in complete agreement.
(PRESS nods as one)
POLITICS: Any questions?
PRESS (in unison): So when can MInnesota businesses return to normal?
POLITICS: We’ve developed, in cooperation with Government and Reality, a 12 step process of steps and levers that will be the red lines leading to re-opening. Care to elaborate, Government?
GOVERNMENT: Yes. I’d just like to say, I’ve never had a job outside the public sector, and I don’t actually trust businesses to do anything but exploit the people.
REALITY: You’ve got people who are neither scientists nor businesspeople making decisions for and on behalf of both. If you expect anything other than a glorified junior high school production of West Wing, you probably watched way too much of the actual West Wing.
POLITICS: Thanks. As I said, One Minnesota. Next question?
PRESS: What does the science tell us?
POLITICS: We are using the best data science tells us.
GOVERNMENT: Anyone using or repeating information from scientists not on the approved list will be facing serious consequences.
REALITY: The “science” is being applied via a layer of sociology, and at best everyone is winging it and nobody has a clue what the future holds.
POLITICS: Thanks. We are all in this together. Next question?
PRESS: What are your current preconditions for getting back to normal.
POLITICIANS: Well, obviously, sufficient testing.
GOVERNMENT: We have chosen the figure of 20,000 tests a day, for no reason that we choose to make available to you.
REALITY: And she could say 1,000, or 10,000, or eleventy-teen million, because after a month of yammering about testing, the daily tests performed are creeping along in the low four figures a day, and there is no visible indication that is changing, or for that matter that it’s going to matter, if indeed it turns out this epidemic has been active in the population since January.
POLITICS: Minnesota strong. Next question?
THE PRESS: Any others?
POLITICS: Standard public health practice would be to do contact tracing.
GOVERNMENT: Therefore, all MInnesotans must keep a list of all their contacts.
REALITY: This is pure fairy dust. Contact tracing is incredibly labor intensive work even for a disease with a fairly predictable means of transmission, like AIDS, and which spreads from symptomatic people, like Ebola. This is neither. Someone could unknowingly pass it on to hundreds of people before they knew they were sick. Contact tracing could be the CIvilian Conservation Corps project of the new millennium, employing hundreds of thousands of people, and we’d still never get it all done.
PRESS: How about a vaccine?
POLITICS: Our best and brightest are working 24/7 to try to develop one.
GOVERNMENT: We will be locked down until a vaccine is developed and tested, however long it takes.
REALITY: (Tosses the rest of the sandwich into his mouth, talks while chewing) Nobody has successfully developed a vaccine for a corona virus, and even if this is the first, it’ll take years – and if we shut down the entire economy nobody will be able to pay for the vaccine, much less developing it.
POLITICS: Last question?
PRESS: How about re-opening businesses?
POLITICS: We’ll re-open businesses according to the plan.
GOVERNMENT: And anyone not adhering to the common-sense, scientific plan will face consequences.
REALITY: (stifles a burp as he rumples up his now-empty Jimmy Johns bag) Look, the policy is utterly capricious today. There is literally no reason to keep a Walmart or a Menards open but shut down a Vape shop or a guitar store. There is literally no reason they can’t follow the same restrictions. Restaurants and bars and barber shops are more complicated, but do you honestly think a business owner is less suited to see to their own survival than… (nudges head toward GOVERNMENT).
POLITICS Well, thank you all for coming out. Remember – we’re one Minnesota…
PRESS: (as one) We’re One MInnesota…
POLITICS: And we’re all in this together.
PRESS: And we’re all in this together.
GOVERNMENT: Depart the room in an orderly fashion in the reverse order you came in, via the door you came though…