In his inauguration address on Jan. 20, 1961, President John F Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Who knew that almost 60 years later, the most important thing that many of us could do is stay home?

Yet that’s what we must do to respond to COVID-19. Gov. Tim Walz instituted a stay-at-home order which he has recently extended until Monday, May 4, to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus. Unlike some of our neighboring states, we are seeing our rate of infection grow at a slower rate which is good news, and now we have more time to build out the capacity of our health care system to respond.

I want to thank all the first responders and health care workers who are putting their lives on the line to keep us safe. Their compassion and dedication to providing care are truly inspiring. I also want to thank those workers that we now recognize as essential to the health of our community: the grocery store employees, the delivery drivers, the custodial staff, the bus drivers, and the many hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who are continuing to keep our state moving.

Though we cannot be together physically, we are still together. We are finding new ways to connect with one another, to build our bonds as a community, and to help our neighbors during this time. I’ve been encouraged by the drive-by parades I’ve seen for people’s birthdays, the virtual happy hours and birthday parties, and the quiet nights at home we’ve been able to share with our families. What are you missing these days? I truly and sincerely miss shaking people’s hands. As Louie Armstrong sang “I see friends shaking hands. Saying, ‘How do you do?’ They’re really saying ‘I love you.’” I miss that!

This is a challenging time, and we are all being asked to make tremendous sacrifices. My heart goes out to everyone who is facing uncertainty in their life right now. I also want to let you know that I am here for you and my office is open virtually for the people of Senate District 48. I strongly encourage you to reach out by email at stevec@senate.mn or by phone at 651-296-1314 if you haven’t already.

Steve Cwodzinski, a Democrat, is a state senator who represents Senate District 48, which includes Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.

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