Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The reality of COVID-19 October 9, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
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A portrait I took of my mom during my last in-person visit with her in early March. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.

I EXPECTED THIS. Yet, the news that an employee in my mom’s southwestern Minnesota care center has tested positive for COVID-19 hit me hard. I felt my heart race, my blood pressure rise, my worry spike when my daughter alerted me to this development Wednesday afternoon. It took awhile for me to process this and what this might mean.

I’m more settled now with the passage of time and answers from the care center administrator who advised, in a Facebook post, to email her with any concerns or questions. She was prompt and thorough in her reply to my inquiry and for that I am grateful. I feel better if I am informed, rather than guessing or wondering.

I photographed my mom’s hands during that last in-person visit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.

Time and testing will tell if Mom has been exposed to the virus. I am confident the care center is doing the best it can to protect staff and residents. But I also recognize that the best, when it comes to this potentially deadly virus, may not be enough. I am preparing myself mentally.

Simultaneously, my father-in-law is now in in-room quarantine after a resident of his wing in a central Minnesota care center tested positive for COVID.

And our second daughter, who works as a letter carrier in Madison, Wisconsin, texted Wednesday evening that an individual in her office tested positive for the virus. She was not surprised. She has shared often that masking up is about the only safety measure being taken to protect her and other postal employees. Thankfully she was not told she needed to quarantine, meaning she was not exposed to the infected co-worker.

All of this, as you would guess, is stressing me. These cases are getting way too close to people I love.

To those of you in similar situations or who have lost loved ones to COVID, my heart breaks for you. This is hard, just plain hard.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2020.

I especially appreciated, as part of her Facebook post, the administrator at my mom’s care center adding this:

“We have kept a close eye on the increase in cases within our county; however, we can only do so much. To help continue to keep our residents safe and allow them to live without all of these restrictions, we ask that our community members please take this virus seriously. Please mask if you are able and social distance from others.”

That’s prudent advice no matter where you live. No place is immune. I continue to see way too many people not wearing masks or wearing them under their noses (which does no good). I hear stories from my husband about co-workers and customers exhibiting the same careless behavior. This frustrates me to no end. Why don’t people care? I just do not understand.

COVID-19 kills. In Minnesota, most of those who have lost their lives lived in long-term congregate care centers or assisted living facilities. I’ve heard nonchalant comments like, “Oh, they are old, they were going to die anyway.” As if that’s OK. It’s not. Sure, my mom has major health issues that could end her life any day. But her life still has value. And I’d rather she didn’t die of COVID-19.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “The reality of COVID-19”

  1. I know a few people who have had COVID or have been exposed to COVID and it is stressful and anxiety ridden. Especially when it comes to those high risks groups like your mother and father-in-law. I am still in shock and a little mad as a hatter that some counties here are doing away with mask mandates. NO – it is PREMATURE – at least in my mind! Every life has value and matters! I work in the health care industry and the organization does not have Skilled Nursing Facilities, however; that is a major concern from a hospital standpoint in making sure those groups are protected and get the care they need. I am very proud to work for this organization and I am extremely impressed in our work in the communities we serve in a pandemic. (((((((((HugsLovePrayersHealingBeSafeTakeCare))))))

    • I would feel mad as a hatter also if I, like you, lived in Florida. Eliminating mask mandates now is not only premature, but dangerous. What are leaders thinking?

      Thank you for your work in the health care industry. You definitely hold qualities of love, compassion and care that are so important in that field, in any profession really.

      Thank you also for your closing string of HugsLovePrayers…I feel your care.

  2. Kathleen Ahern Says:

    Oh Audrey, I just read your post. My heart goes out to you snd all in your sweet family.

    I share both your concerns and frustrations over the lack of compliance with mask wearing and social distancing. We see the same irresponsible and selfish behaviors here in ID and WA. It’s unconscionable!

    This behavior is modeled at the highest level of our government. It is demonstratedk and affirmed there. So, it’s no surprise that non-compliance and insensitivity is so unfortunately prevalent.

    I will be holding you, Miranda, you mom and father-in-law in my heart. May they each continue to stay as healthy as possible. And may you find some comfort in knowing how many, many people like myself care and are sending you love and support! Kathleen

    • Oh, Kathleen, thank you for your ongoing love and support. I feel both this morning in your caring words. (Watch for an email from me soon.)

      I agree with you 100 percent about the behavior at the highest level of government. So disheartening and maddening and…

  3. Brenda Boone Says:

    Hello Audrey, I always enjoy your posts and this one really hits me in the heart. My mom is gone now three years ago, but our family could have been exactly where you are at right now. So I could not just enjoy and pass by on this one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so candidly, hopefully influencing others to soften their hearts and think more of others. Because I think that is our only way back to a better place. Peace and hugs to you, my friend!

    • Dearest Brenda, thank you. It’s so good to hear from you. I hope you and your dear family are well. Have you gotten back to MN for a visit?

      I’m sorry for the loss of your mom three years ago. I know you miss her dearly. It’s hard…

      And, yes, softening of hearts would be welcome. Rather than fight science and each other and make this political, we need to embrace working together to stop the spread of COVID.

  4. BERNADETTE Thomasy Says:

    So sorry to hear of the bad news relating to your mother and other family members. Covid is touching people everywhere, everyday and my heart goes out to you and to them. It is especially heart-breaking for the elderly in congregate settings who have no or little control on what happens. I agree with you, their lives do have value and no one should take that away from them or their families. Prayers for you and your family.

    • Thank you, Bernadette. I appreciate your concern and prayers.

      I’m glad you also added how difficult this is for our seniors who remain isolated in care centers and other congregate settings. As challenging as this is for us, their families, it’s even more challenging for them. This is important to remember. It’s about them, not us.

  5. Ruth Says:

    ❤️ I don’t know what to say.

  6. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Hi Audrey, I’m so sorry that you are on high alert for your mom, father-in-law, and daughter right now. Yes, this is hard and there are no guarantees. That said, to not do what we can (wearing masks, maintaining social distance, washing our hands, etc.) is simply irresponsible. Of course we should stay masked up! I’m so disappointed in those who are cavalier toward this virus and its potentially devastating effects. My daughter who works at Target and my friend who is a nurse in St. Paul are the two people closest to me who are constantly at exposure risk; the buzzing worry I carry has become part of daily life. We have to be diligent for a good long time yet. That isn’t negotiable. Thinking of you.

    • Kathleen, I understand and empathize fully with that “buzzing worry.” I’m sorry your dear daughter and friend risk daily exposure. I know we fully agree on the words “simply irresponsible” and “disappointed in those who are cavalier” and so many other aspects of how people are acting. I’ve repeated this many times, but I just do not get it. What is difficult about masking up, social distancing, washing hands, keeping our circles small? As the other Kathleen pointed out in comments today, the behavior modeled by the highest level of government is also to blame.

      Thank you for your concern for me and my family. I appreciate that.

      And I appreciate you. I continue to read your weekly posts and value your introspective writing.

  7. I’m sorry you have the added stress of knowing a healthcare worker has tested positive at your mom’s care center, such a scary and helpless feeling for sure! Rick’s mom has had the same scenario, luckily nothing has come of it with the residents who live there. I’m not saying this in a bad way but we feel like Rick’s mom is already gone……. It’s so hard not being able to see those we love. I’m glad M. is safe, we must continue to pray that the Lord keeps a watchful eye over our famlies. Stay safe my friend

    • I understand exactly what you’re saying about Rick’s mom, that she “is already gone.” I share that experience. But it doesn’t diminish the fact that our moms are still physically with us. I don’t want anyone to suffer with COVID, no matter their age. We are sisters in sharing this same heartache, too. Prayer and smart, safe choices are wise advice.

  8. Susan Ready Says:

    Thoughts and prayers for you and your family. Indeed times are stressful. We need to be vigilant on keeping safety foremost.

  9. Sheila Ehrich Says:

    I agree 100%!! My mom lived to be 92 and up until here last week, was living with purpose for not only her life, but also the lives of others in our family. I want to tell these people supposedly so concerned about their “freedom” that yes , this 71-year-old grandma wants her freedom to – the freedom to live!!! so I can see my grandkids again. Thank you for your comments.

  10. Liz Says:

    Audrey, I am sorry you are being touched by the virus in this very personal way. One thing that bothers me about the letter from the administrator is the use of the phrase “wearing a mask as you are able”. I have read a number of doctors statements saying there should be no medical reason why a person cannot wear a mask. I get that a person may be claustrophobic but so am I and I can manage to wear one for several hours if need be. A young woman at Aldi told me she couldn’t wear a mask when I questioned her lack of one, and so I suggested she should not be shopping. Of course, her response was unpleasant and I got the heck out of there. So frustrating!

    • Liz, thank you for your concern for my family. After the first round of testing, all residents and staff at my mom’s care center tested negative for COVID. I expected that given the short time between the first positive and subsequent testing. We’ll see if the same holds true with the second test. My concern continues for my husband in his workplace and also for my second daughter, her husband and my son, all living in Madison, Wisconsin.

      I, too, found the administrator’s “wearing a mask as you are able” to be troubling. Interestingly enough, I saw the exact same wording/message on the Facebook page for another care center in my home county. So I don’t know where this word choice is rooted. But, like you, I agree that if you can’t wear a mask, then just stay home.

      Your encounter with the non-masked shopper does not surprise me. A friend of mine told me awhile back that a sheriff’s deputy advised not to confront people about masks as it could prompt a violent reaction akin to road rage. I understand that. Yet, it’s difficult for me to see this and not want to say something. Now, whenever I see someone without a mask or wearing a mask under their nose, I stop, turn around and stay away. Or walk out of the business. One day at a local grocery store, I saw three employees in an aisle without masks. And the other evening while picking up take-out from a favorite local restaurant, I observed one of three waitresses clustered at the bar wearing her mask under her nose. I won’t be dining at that restaurant any time soon. We haven’t eaten at a restaurant since early March, the day before COVID broke in Minnesota. Not worth the risk, especially when I see a waitress masking improperly.

      Hang in there, Liz, and stay well.

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