Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A look at COVID-19 from a personal perspective March 12, 2020

I photographed my mom’s hands during a visit with her last Saturday.


HOW IS COVID-19 affecting you and those you love? Your friends? Your neighbors? How is this pandemic changing the way you go about your daily life? Are you worried? Anxious?

I would describe my attitude as one of cautious concern. I’ve not yet stockpiled any supplies. But I hold concerns as the situation touches my life. All of our lives in some way, I suppose.

Last evening my brother texted that my mom’s senior living care center is restricting visitors, specifically banning those who have recently traveled overseas or been on a cruise. That’s a smart move designed to protect the vulnerable, at risk population. Anyone not feeling well and with cold and flu-like symptoms should stay away. Staff must clear all visitors before they are allowed to enter, my brother wrote. I’m thankful this center, in a very rural region of Minnesota, is taking this action, as they sometimes do during influenza season.

The facility details this policy on its Facebook page. I’m grateful for these efforts to protect my mom, who is on hospice, and others who live there. Even in rural southwestern Minnesota, where one might consider the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus to be low, the possibility exists. People from this region travel, too, as do those who visit the area.

With the continuing spread of the virus and these new restrictions, I’m thankful Randy and I drove 2.5-hours one-way last weekend to see Mom. We typically limit our visits to 1.5 hours. While each visit is bittersweet given Mom’s confusion and memory loss, I remain grateful for this bonus time with her. When I started talking about Coronavirus to Mom, Randy caught my eye, successfully conveying with his warning look that I should stop. I promptly did. He’s right. Mom doesn’t need to hear about a pandemic.

But I’ve heard plenty about it from others—how it’s affecting vacation plans and raising fears about loved ones with compromised immune systems and other health issues. I worry some about my second daughter, who works in the healthcare field in Wisconsin. And then there’s my son, currently attending an international conference in Florida and the risks that involves, especially with air travel. But neither are in the noted vulnerable population.

So daily life goes on. I’m probably listening to and reading way too many media reports. But I’ve always been a news junkie since pre-teen on, never wanting to miss the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. (Yes, that dates me.) Is it any wonder I went on to earn a mass communications degree and then work in journalism? I’m thankful for a media which keeps us informed. And, no, I don’t want to get into a discussion here about the media. The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. Period.

It’s up to each of us to take Coronavirus seriously, even if we aren’t personally at risk. We have a responsibility to protect individuals like my mom. We’re in this together.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “A look at COVID-19 from a personal perspective”

  1. Liz W Says:

    Spot on, Audrey! As one of the high risk group members who is not panicking but using common sense, I get very annoyed by the cavalier attitude from others not in my age group that shows little regard for the risks their unwillingness to change their habits poses to folks like me.
    Hope the precautions set out by your mother’s care center are effective.
    Always enjoy your writing.

    • Liz, I’m sorry you are dealing with those individuals who simply are not taking this seriously. I’ve heard the same from a few, that this is a “hoax” and that the media is to blame. Really?

      Also, my eldest daughter (who lives in Ramsey County with two of Minnesota’s five confirmed cases of COVID-19) just texted a photo of the incredibly long lines at Costco this morning. People are stocking up on toilet paper, nuts, paper towels, granola bars, meat… I asked if I could buy anything for her down here. She said, “Hand sanitizer.” She can’t find it anywhere. It’s been a week since I visited our local Big Box store. I will be curious to see if shelves are now emptying in Faribault.

      Stay well, Liz, and continue to embrace common sense and to inform those who act cavalier.

      I appreciate your comment.

  2. Eugene Bertrand Says:

    Yes we do entertainment at nursing homes and we had two cancellations so far

    • I never thought of this aspect, which shows how all of this ripples. Thank you for providing entertainment in nursing homes. My mom has always been so appreciative of the musicians and others who visit, bringing not only entertainment, but joy. You are valued. Please know that.

  3. It’s hard not to get caught up in the media hype. But you’re right. We need to be cautious and do our part. Sorry about your mom, Audrey. ❤

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    The other day I realized I was in the more at risk group – the elderly, Hmmm…I didn’t like that. ha

    • You just now realized that? I’m laughing, because what can we “old people” do but laugh? Well, take precautions. But I mean we can laugh at thinking about ourselves as “elderly.”

      • Ken Wedding Says:

        AS my wife said the other day, it was a shock to realize that our son is in his 30s, and we’re in the most vulnerable age group.

      • Yup, that would be correct. Right where we are at, vulnerable.

        We just returned from the grocery store and the local big box store. Toilet paper shelves are nearly bare, cleaning supplies are in short supply and hand sanitizer is nowhere to be found. The clerk at Aldi told me they expected to do $21,000 in business today. When I checked out at 7 pm, she told me they’d already done $42,000 in sales. They weren’t prepared, thus lots of items out of stock. I didn’t expect this in Faribault. I wasn’t out to stock up, just to buy cleaners I was running low on and food I needed. Just a regular weekly grocery run.

  5. I had to cancel an upcoming visit to my 93 year old mom, who is in great health and lives with my sister in Florida. We did not want to bring any unsuspecting germs with us. I hope we can get to see her this summer or fall when things quiet down.

  6. Norma Says:

    We live in a senior living facility, and our manager has informed us that we can’t have any visitors younger than 18 years. Anyone coming to visit, other than family, will have their temperature taken, and all outside entertainers have been cancelled until further notice. The bus will only take residents to doctor appointments. No more shopping trips, or other kind of activities. Most of the residents here are fairly healthy, and we want to stay that way. My oldest great granddaughter will be coming home next weekend from Pepperdine University in Malibu as they are closing the campus. Shelves are also empty here in the stores. Our governor has set a limit of 250 people for events. This will surely be hard to maintain for church services. We all need to pray that this ends soon.

  7. I have been mainly texting and calling my parents even though they live here. I do not want to carry the cold or flu or this new virus to them. They are in the high risk group and it takes them longer to recover just from the common cold. All this stockpiling is tapping resources for those that may need it as well as needed in the medical/clinical supply chain. I think concern and caution is important, but panic and anxiety is a cause for concern because that creates other problems like fights in stores, looting, etc. All we can do is hope that in taking these precautions that life can go to back to the way it was sooner than later. Be Safe and Take Care Everyone

  8. Littlesundog Says:

    I am one of those who is not panicked about the virus. Mostly, because of my lifestyle I am not at great risk, though we all know that no matter what precautions we take, we are always susceptible. That is just life, and if it is the experience we are to have, then we will have it. I try not to judge other’s by their choices or reasoning. Can we say it is true that other’s are not taking this seriously? We have no idea how other’s view this and certainly cannot read their thoughts. Our actions are based on all sorts of reasons for the decisions we make. How can we truly know what drives another person?

    I went to visit my elderly friend, Hillard, at the nursing home Tuesday, but they were discouraging visitors. I understand that and certainly respect those kinds of requests anywhere. This is a time to find compassion in the world, and as a collective body of humans, we try to do our best to get through this epidemic. Our visitor’s tease me about my small “grocery store” of stocked items in the house. Because we entertain so many people throughout the year, I keep all sorts of things on hand so I do not have to dash to the store all that often. I’m beginning to put my garden in already (spring is here in Oklahoma!!) so in the weeks and months to come we’ll have fresh vegetables. And then there are the chickens… we get about 32 eggs a day so we always have that and plenty to share with the neighbors too!

  9. Almost Iowa Says:

    My daughter-in-law pointed out that Wal-Marts around the region are out of toilet paper. I told her to check the RV section. Voila! Toilet paper!

    • Visited three local stores last evening, including Wal-Mart. Only a few rolls left and I didn’t buy any because I didn’t need any. Shelves were cleared of hand sanitizer in all three locations. And cleaning supplies at Wal-Mart were in short supply. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing and will post more on that later.

  10. jhc1218 Says:

    Our work team is all working from home starting today just to see how that impacts productivity. We just made the decision to post-pone our long awaited Hawaii vacation to October. We were supposed to leave next week. While none of us are in high-risk population it is the socially responsible thing to do, and thankfully we are able to post-pone without any significant financial implications. I encountered long lines at Target yesterday. Be cautious, but don’t panic. And please don’t hoard.

    • I’m sorry about the postponed trip to Hawaii, but am thankful you made that choice and for all the right reasons. I appreciate your responsible approach.

      I’m awaiting your cousin’s return from a conference in Florida. That’s caused me the most anxiety this week.

  11. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    We’ve cancelled our plans to travel to Texas A&M for our daughter Abby’s graduation from her masters program there. She did an online version, so is living in Minnesota, five minutes from us. She was hoping to walk for her degree, but she’s a type 1 diabetic, so no air travel for her for a while. That’s disappointing. But it’s just one of the many things being cancelled or postponed. My husband is working remotely as much as possible. I already work at home. I worry about my son who is a teacher, my daughter-in-law who also works in a high school, and my 8-year-old granddaughter who, as a third grader, probably touches her face more than all of us. To counteract the overwhelming worry, I listen to a lot of jazz, do daily yoga, walk outside with the dog, meditate, read, and cook. Gotta find those daily things that make us feel better while we keep our hands clean.

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