Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

COVID-19 deaths reach 100 in Rice County April 7, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used for illustration only.

YESTERDAY MY COUNTY of Rice reached a mournful milestone with the 100th death of a resident due to COVID-19. That individual was only in his/her upper fifties.

Not that age matters. Every individual is to be valued, whether a child, a senior or anyone in between. Yet, I am citing this age to reaffirm that COVID kills more than the oldest among us. None of us knows how COVID will affect us. We may experience mild or no symptoms or symptoms so severe we land in an ICU. We could become long-haulers. Or we could die.

In the span of a year, 100 individuals in Rice County, population 64,142, died due to COVID-19. That’s a lot of families grieving, hurting, adjusting to life without a person they loved. Think about that for a minute or ten.


And then consider this. Every time I am out in public—whether buying groceries or shopping at a Big Box store or popping into the local dollar store, I see half-maskers and non-maskers. Their numbers are increasing. Just the other evening I stopped to pick up balloons for my granddaughter’s birthday and two young women stood behind me in line, neither wearing a mask. I exited that store angry and frustrated and wondering what’s so d**n hard about wearing a face mask.

I feel that way a lot. We are so close to this pandemic ending and people are exhibiting incredibly selfish behavior by not masking, or by half-masking. This has been an issue since mask mandates went in to place in Minnesota last summer. This is not about making a political statement or taking away individual rights, but rather about public health, about preventing the spread of a virus, about saving lives. Why can’t people understand that? Do non-maskers and half-maskers ever pause to consider that they may unknowingly pass along a virus which could make someone really sick or even kill someone? Where is the sense of responsibility, the concern for fellow human beings?

So, yeah, when I see individuals like the young father in the grocery store with a gator pulled over the back of his neck and over the top portion of his head but not covering his face, I feel disrespected. I tried to avoid him. But he bounced around the aisles like a ping pong ball. Ironically, his elementary-aged daughter wore her face mask correctly. He should follow her example.


My husband, who works in an automotive machine shop, tells me mask compliance is getting worse with maybe half his customers masking. That concerns me. I love him. I don’t want some idiot I-don’t-give-a-d**n-about-COVID customer infecting him. He doesn’t have a work-from-home option. Only recently did Randy secure a vaccine appointment, even though he’s nearly 65. Our tech savvy daughter helped him land that. Without her help, he’d still be waiting. If you’re anti-vaccine, don’t bother to tell me in the comments section. I refuse to give voice to that viewpoint or to misinformation on this, my personal blog.

According to statistics shared on the Rice County Public Health website on April 6, nearly 42 percent of the county population has received at least one vaccine dose. That seems a good start. But I know from our experience that vaccine appointments are elusive. Randy drove to Owatonna for his shot at a Big Box store. There he met a young mom from Lonsdale desperate to get an appointment for her immune-compromised mother.

While Randy got vaccinated, I shopped for a few essentials. And the entire time, I dodged half-maskers and non-maskers and wondered why? Why can’t we all care about one another and do the right thing by masking, and masking properly? In one section of the store, a pharmacist injected a life-saving vaccine. And, in too many aisles, too many customers (and some employees) chose to ignore a very basic way to stop the spread of COVID-19 by masking.


And now here we are with 6,889 Minnesotans dead (as of April 6) due to COVID-19, with 100 of those in my county of Rice.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “COVID-19 deaths reach 100 in Rice County”

  1. Washe Koda Says:

    🙈 wear a mask 😉

  2. I’m so sorry, Audrey. I share your frustration. I don’t know what the answer is. It amazes me how blindly selfish people are. 😦

  3. I agree that not masking is selfish, short-sighted, and stupid. It infuriates me, too. People are so tired of this pandemic, even though other pandemics and assorted disasters have required longer calendar periods of compromise. There is this sense of having to have everything one’s own way right this second because waiting is just unthinkable. Oh, I could go on to talk about those who won’t take the vaccine either! But that’s just angry venting. The problem with how to get people to understand and act upon the idea that we are truly all here together, in this together, and actions matter is one that is complicated and hard to solve. We just have to keep doing the right thing ourselves.

    • You make some excellent points about past pandemics and disasters and how much more prolonged and our inabilities to “wait.” And your thoughts about being in this “together” really ring true. If only we could think of ourselves as a team. People can relate to that given their love of sports.

      My post today is undeniably one of venting, but also one of sharing what I’m seeing here in my area and how what people do ripples into the health of my community and area communities. Friends and family in the metro tell me masking isn’t really an issue there. But it certainly is in Rice and Steele counties and other more rural areas.

  4. jhc1218 Says:

    Oh, I hear and empathize with your frustrations. Mask compliance is certainly better here in the metro area than rural, but it’s not 100%. Cases in our county, Dakota, were over 300 yesterday. This is the highest daily case number since December for our area. I’ve heard of more friends that tested positive in the last few weeks than ever before. We are getting nearly daily emails from the school of positive case in the “school community.” We are so glad we decided to keep our kids home.
    We can’t let our foot off the pedal when the end is so close. Mask up, social distance, get vaccinated, save lives.
    Stepping off my soapbox, now.


    • Thank you for adding your observations from the south metro. I’m sorry more and more of your friends are testing positive. I know you have seen firsthand how your friend was affected by COVID as a long-hauler. I don’t understand why youth sports haven’t been curtailed again to stop the spread of the especially transmissible variants. I understand the value of sports, but right now does not seem to be the right time to engage in athletics. It makes zero sense to me.

      I’m so thankful you kept my great nieces, your dear daughters, home and in distance learning.

      Your advice of not removing our foot from the pedal is one I wish everyone would hear and follow. You are welcome to step on your soapbox anytime here.

  5. Charles P Ziegler Says:

    The anti-masking in your area of Minnesota surprises me, in that as a youngster I would visit Redwood County with my parents to see my grandfather and numerous other relatives. I haven’t been back since 1973, but I do remember the people being warm and friendly, so such an anti-social act as non-masking surprises me. I now live in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. It is rare that you see someone without a mask. Perhaps the fact that Alexandria is solid “blue” politically may have something to do with it.

    • Charles, thank you for sharing your observations about masking in the DC area. I’m thankful people are complying there. And, yes, I think this has become very much a political issue. Rural areas of Minnesota are primarily “red.” My area is represented at the state level by Republicans, one of whom constantly attacks anything our Democratic governor does (or doesn’t do) related to COVID-19. His attitude and words nauseate me.

      You’re right about the warm and friendly people who live in rural Minnesota. That they are. But when it comes to COVID, not so much. When we were in Redwood County about a month ago, the clerk at a Redwood Falls convenience store was half-masking. And the owner of a downtown business was not wearing a mask. In New Ulm, a customer and his son walked into an antique shop without masks. When I see this, I quickly exit or turn around and walk out.

  6. Judy Says:

    It is maddening when people don’t respect themselves or others by not wearing a mask correctly. In our county there is a 100 dollar fine for not wearing a mask in public. I hope both of you stay well.

    • Judy, have people actually been fined? I can only imagine the uproar if people were fined here. However, it would prove a good source of income given all the violators.

      We are trying our best to remain cautious and stay healthy. You stay well also.

  7. Wow… these updates you post only confirm my suspicions that COVID in the US is not being taken as seriously as it should! I know Minnesota has been doing a better job than other states in controlling the spread but still hard to do when a portion of the population refuses to participate. Did anyone pay attention in science classes?
    When I read that cases in the US are still above 60,000/day I wonder how is it that the message is “open up”, “resume normal operations”?
    We are not doing great here either as the population is getting sick of the restrictions, economic impact is hitting and hurting everyone. Our numbers are sitting at 6000/day which I also think is crazy high, which means that people here are also not following the guidelines.😳🙄 stay strong and thanks for writing about how this impacts you and your community.

    • I’m sorry you’re experiencing non-compliance also and surging numbers. It’s the variants which are really rooting in Minnesota now…just as things open up more and more. It’s scary. Just yesterday I was talking to a cousin who shared that her son’s 18-year-old niece was hospitalized with COVID. Eighteen. This same cousin refuses to get vaccinated as do others in her family.

  8. Sandra Says:

    North metro, I feel ok. The stores are very strict, not so much the parking lots. All close places, there is a sensitivity, but takes a reminder sometimes. I wouldn’t call my lifestyle the norm though. Church is stopping registrations this week, but masks and distancing required still most everywhere. My social circle is a cautious group, so the topic isn’t the headache it’s causing you. The town I remember was so civic minded and law abiding, almost rigid, what you’re describing is really strange to me. I do remember feeling “safe”, almost immune to big city crime. But I was much younger then. I too resent selfish behavior….and want this fear to be gone! Now!!

    • Nowhere, including Faribault, is the place we grew up. In my opinion, many people today are much more me-centered, impatient and uncaring. Not all, but too many.

      I’m thankful the stores in the north metro are strict when it comes to COVID-related mandates. Menards and Target do a really good job in this area. Other businesses? Nope. I’m especially frustrated when business owners and employees either refuse to mask or are half-maskers.

      Continue to stay safe. We’ll return to church once we are vaccine-protected, which will be in mid to late May. Maybe.

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