Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My take-aways from a COVID-19 situation press conference in Minnesota November 17, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2020.

STORIES. THEY MATTER. And, during a Monday afternoon press conference addressing COVID-19 in Minnesota, the powerful stories shared by Abbot Northwestern Hospital ICU nurse Kelly Anaas took this crisis down to a personal level.

I—we—needed to hear this. Stats, data and information, while important, can only go so far before we numb to the numbers. Stories translate into real people, real situations. They hit home.

As Anaas stood at the podium and talked of patients from Stacy, Brainerd, Bemidji waiting for hours for helicopters and/or ambulances to transfer them, of the ICU filling, of overwhelmed healthcare workers, I could see the stress on her face, the worry, the strong desire to convince Minnesotans to follow health and safety guidelines and take this virus seriously. If her plea doesn’t convince people, I don’t know what will.

“So, Minnesota, lawmakers, mask wearers and COVID deniers, I’m here today to say that you need to believe nurses when we tell you that these things are happening,” she said.

Just moments earlier Anaas dismissed the term frontline workers, instead shifting that to say, “Minnesota, we are your only line.”

One of her most memorable statements: “Please, Minnesota, stay home this Thanksgiving so you don’t have to ring in the new year with me.”


Repeatedly throughout the news conference, our governor, public health officials and other healthcare workers (including another nurse and a doctor) called for Minnesotans to do their part, to work together, to be kind, to stay home, to mask up, to social distance, to limit their Thanksgiving celebration to their immediate household. That’s a change from just days ago when we were advised it was OK to gather with no more than 10 people from three households.

How quickly things evolve with this pandemic. Reported record high daily infections of nearly 9,000 with deaths breaking records also prompted Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm to term the numbers “terrifying.” And she warned the situation will worsen as the high infection rate translates to increasing hospitalizations and deaths in the upcoming weeks.

Mixed with that bad news, though, seemed a concerted effort by those speaking to set a positive tone. A pep fest, if you will, praising Minnesotans for their efforts thus far and inspiring them to work together as “One Minnesota” (Governor Tim Walz’ unifying theme). Walz also noted the light at the end of the tunnel in promising vaccines. But we’re not there yet. He repeatedly called upon Minnesotans to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.


In the midst of all the dire news, Dr. Cuong Pham of M Health Fairview delivered a light-hearted moment when he shared how he learned to cut his hair via YouTube. I appreciated the humor mixed into his observations of hospitals at near-capacity, his concern about “the little hospitals in greater Minnesota,” his worry, too, about patients with healthcare needs beyond COVID. Heart attacks, strokes, car accidents and other emergencies continue. He stressed wearing masks, with the added words “over your nose.” I appreciated that. Over, not under, your nose.

These are difficult days. There’s no questioning that. I’d like to believe that we as Minnesotans have the ability to live up to our Minnesota Nice moniker, to believe healthcare workers like Kelly Anaas who need us to listen, and, as the governor said, “fight the virus and not each other.”

NOTE: I moderate all comments and will not publish inflammatory comments or those which spread misinformation and/or false narratives.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “My take-aways from a COVID-19 situation press conference in Minnesota”

  1. Liz Says:

    Excellent, Audrey. I don’t know what it will take to get the deniers to get their heads out of the sand and do their part. It is just so incredibly selfish. Yes, we would all like to be living our normal lives, and yes, it takes more effort and discipline to do what needs to be done.
    Would you give me permission to quote parts of your blog (with acknowledgment given!) on my Facebook page? I’ll understand if you would prefer not.

    • Thank you, Liz. But the credit really goes to Kelly, the ICU nurse, for speaking truth, for enlightening us all.

      I’m fine with you quoting parts on Facebook, as long as I don’t get caught in verbal attacks. Not saying that would be the case with your FB page. But I’ve heard people can get vicious, one of the reasons I am not on FB.

      • Liz Says:

        Thanks, Audrey. I will give you credit by first name only and tell friends if they want to find your blog to send me a message. I am a tiny presence on Facebook, so most of the time I feel I am “preaching to the choir” when I post things. I know what you mean about attacks. Scholastic, Inc’s post about the children’s book, Wonky Donkey, came up, and I made the innocent comment that although I thought the book was funny, I felt it gave children the impression that it was ok to laugh at people and animals with disabilities. I got hammered, so I deleted my comment. Just didn’t feel like getting into a discussion about why we need to be more sensitive about these kinds of things. A bit like a “boys will be boys” comment, etc. Just because it was once acceptable, doesn’t mean we can’t change.

      • I trust that your Facebook readers will take my post for what it is meant to be, informative and enlightening. Thank you for asking. And, yes, I just got your second message. We’re good.

        I don’t know if you heard the governor’s press conference this afternoon. But it was stories, all stories. From a state legislator who has COVID, to a mother of a teenaged COVID patient, to a doctor (who also got COVID, along with his family), to Lt. Gov. Flanagan, whose brother died of COVID. I emailed the governor’s office last Friday and suggested stories as a way to get the message across to Minnesotans about COVID. Whether my suggestion sparked today’s approach, I don’t know. I’m just thankful for the “human” perspective presented today.

  2. jhc1218 Says:

    I cannot comment what I really think, as I have a few choice four-letter words for anti-maskers. This is more than “just a cold” for some people. You don’t know how it’s going to affect you. A friend from high school has been hospitalized for COVID twice in the last month. She is healthy 39 year old. She did everything right and followed all the recommendations, yet people at her husbands work didn’t. He brought it home. Thankfully she’s expected to make a full pulmonary recovery, but long-term effects on her heart are unknown.
    Another friend, a rural EMT, has had to transport non-COVID ICU patients FIVE hours to find an open ICU bed. There are no beds for people.
    The number of COVID positive friends and family has exploded in the past couple weeks.
    I’ve been told to “stop living in fear”, but I wear my mask and follow public health recommendations out of love for others, not fear.
    The selfishness is astounding and absolutely maddening to me. What happened to a little sacrifice for the greater good?
    We continue to stay home and mask up when going out which is pretty rare these days. The kids school made the decision to go full distance starting next week. We’re glad they don’t need to go through that disruption, as they’ve been home for since the beginning of the school year.
    This will also be the first Thanksgiving we’ve spent alone. But, we are looking forward staying in pajamas all day, eating only foods we like (no green bean casserole), and watching Christmas movies.
    Best to all of you. Take care.

    • Jocelyn, thank you for your powerful comment, including the stories you shared. I am sorry your high school friend has struggled with serious issues related to COVID. I understand how she could do everything right, yet others make poor choices that affect her health. That’s the same scenario Randy and I face. We’re trying to be cautious and follow health and safety guidelines, yet he goes into a work environment where customers don’t mask and coworkers mask improperly. It’s beyond maddening. And frustrating. And, yes, I could easily type four-letter words here, too. And you’re right, none of us knows how the disease will affect us.

      Your rural EMT friend’s experience shines a light on just how bad the situation is and we need to hear these stories. I’m so thankful stories were shared in the “story” focused governor’s press conference this afternoon (Tuesday).

      To those who say you and I live in fear, your answer is spot on. We are acting out of love. And care for others. I am grateful for all you are doing to keep yourself, your beautiful family and others safe. Thank you!

      Like you, the number of people we know with COVID has exploded in the past weeks. On Monday I added six COVID-infected individuals to my whiteboard prayer list, including four extended family members. I mailed three “get well” cards this morning. Several last week. Take care, dear niece, and stay well. I love you!

  3. Liz Says:

    Audrey, I did listen today, so thank you for urging him to use stories. He obviously heard you!

  4. Audrey- so glad you posted this to help get the message out. The Minnesota Governor has done a great job with his team through this incredibly difficult situation. So many Minnesotans are doing the right thing and yet it is the ones who are not that place all at risk. Several years ago I participated in a simulation on a nation wide pandemic. The mission was to identify shortfalls in state and National responses. It was scary then with numbers in the simulation not even close to the numbers we are now dealing with on a worldwide scale! The sad thing is that we can never make this “real enough” for some people. We each need to do what we can to protect ourselves and listen to the guidelines. For those who don’t… “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!” Sad enough!

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