Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The progression of COVID-19 in Minnesota & my thoughts May 6, 2020

The marquee at the Paradise Center for the Arts, photographed on March 17, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


A SERIES OF PHOTOS I’ve taken in historic downtown Faribault represent, in many ways, a visual timeline documentation of the progression of COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Just three days after touring the annual Faribault Area Student Art Exhibit and shopping the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market at the Paradise Center for the Arts, I photographed this message on the PCA marquee:


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 17, 2020.


That was 10 days before Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued his initial Stay-at-Home executive order. On the date of that first photo, March 17, the state was already shutting down due to the global pandemic that has changed every facet of our lives. Among the closures, our local center for the arts.


PCA marquee photographed on April 11, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I next photographed the marquee on April 11, when the “closed until” date had changed to May 1.


Photographed on April 19, 2020. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


And then, only eight days later, I stopped to photograph the marquee message again. This time no “closed until” date was noted. Rather, the posted words offer encouragement. That seems the best approach. One of hopefulness, of unity and of strength rather than focusing on dates that continue to change.

None of us really knows how long COVID-19 will be around, although every indication is that it will be here for a long time. Infection and deaths are rising at a rapid rate here in Minnesota. Yes, testing has increased, resulting in higher numbers. But so has the spread. Just ask my friend who lives in Worthington. Or my extended family who live in Stearns County. Even in my county of Rice, which still has a low rate—30 positive cases as of Tuesday—in comparison to many other counties, numbers are on the rise.


A helpful reminder posted on the Paradise Center for the Arts marquee. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.


These are difficult days for so many of us. My heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Like my friends Raquel and Bob. Randy and I are concerned about my mom and his dad, both in the high risk elderly group living in care centers. But worry doesn’t fix anything. So we do what we can to tamp our fears, use common sense, and try to keep ourselves and others safe. We aren’t gathering with family or friends. We limit our travel to local. Shop only for necessities. Wear masks. Social distance. Wash our hands often and use hand sanitizer.


Posted in the front window of the Paradise Center for the Arts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2020.


But this is about much more than just our individual behavior. The current marquee message at the Paradise states, WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Our choices, our actions, our decisions affect others. Our families, friends, neighbors, strangers… That, I believe, is especially important to remember during this global pandemic. This is about the health and safety of all of us.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


23 Responses to “The progression of COVID-19 in Minnesota & my thoughts”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Just to say Good Morning Audrey and appreciate your post and what we are experiencing.

  2. Totally agree, Audrey. We all must do what we can to protect ourselves and others without getting too fanatical about things. I know that some people don’t think they are at risk but there are just too many unknowns with this thing. If I can wear a mask to help I will do it.

  3. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    That’s an interesting way to document the shifting reality – through the theater marquee. Yes, we’re all in this together. No denying that, much as some act selfishly. Thank you for being thoughtful in how you live in the world right now, Audrey. From one mask-wearing Minnesotan to another…Stay well.

    • And thank you, Kathleen, for wearing a mask and thinking of others.

      Yesterday Randy and I donated blood at a local Red Cross blood drive. It’s something we do regularly. Although I hesitated at first because of COVID, I’m glad I didn’t back out. All the extra precautions, which probably should have been in place pre-COVID, made me feel safe. Changes included all of us wearing masks, use of hand sanitizer, more glove-changing, temperature taken twice (once before even entering the donation area), wiping down the tables between people, covering the squeezie thing (don’t know what it’s called) with a protective covering, one employee per donor… It’s one way I can help.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    Thank you for all the ways you are doing your part Audrey. We are all in this together!

  5. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    I would expect Central and the Paradise to lead the home dynamic in this. I’m enjoying the FSHS high school senior pictures on FB as well. We don’t have “main drags”, well, maybe No St. Paul. The big box stores, grocery and drug stores. There’s just so many more than me making a “contribution”, I really feel just staying sane, trying to keep our hoa on track. We don’t have health care workers that require campers in parking lots to live in during this time, some do and the Rules are waived. We have many educators and workers in local stores now opening again. I try to remember to mask, now with the big box stores requiring them, if I want flowers, I mask up! This is coming down to personal responsibility. The govt can only do so much. I pray really hard for all the senior facilities. And play my piano daily to focus, we will have choir community again. Those few gathering at Trinity each week are fortunate! Everyone I know is taking this very seriously. The few hundred protestors do not speak for the majority! God’s got this.

  6. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    For too long I have blamed it on: I need to get a ’roundtuit.’ Well, I have masses of time now and have both a morning and afternoon project advancing along quite nicely! I am starting to get into the habit of doing it – my reading habit is shunned until bedtime.

    • Marilyn, I’m curious to hear what projects you have in the works.

      • Marilyn Donnell Says:

        I’ve created a tailor-made document to record financial transactions for our church’s record keeping. I am the financial secretary and have wanted to somehow make a compact record, but easier to use than available money management software. In 2010 my Quicken files somehow got corrupted and I lost all records pre-2010. Well, it is now all on record again. I could only do it thanks to the fact that I had kept everything. Well, it is saved, saved, and re-saved now! My afternoons are dedicated to fabric – plans to finish the quilt projects started back in the 90s. When the financial records are all finished I hope to give the full day to fabric. I checked out a pile of library books when I feared the library was about to close. Sure enough . . . well they have all been read and now I am re-reading some old friends from my own shelves.

      • Marilyn, it sounds like you have lots to keep you busy. Good for you. Our library, I just learned, is now offering curbside pick-up of ordered books. My eldest daughter and her husband are storing some boxes at our house, many labeled “books.” She tells me I’m free to open the boxes and search for books to read. I’ll be doing that soon.

  7. We (the entire World!) are in this together!!! All peoples, all nations, all nationalities, all religions, all those who don’t believe in religion, the poor, the rich, the homeless, those who live in palaces!!!! So never forget, we as a people can solve this TOGETHER! Let’s do it!!!

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