Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Minnesota healthcare leaders: “Heartbroken & overwhelmed” December 15, 2021

Coronavirus. (Photo source: CDC)

SOME TWO WEEKS until Christmas and nearly two years in to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota medical leaders on Monday issued a strong warning to the public along with a plea for the unvaccinated to get vaccinated.

Nine healthcare executives—including the head of the world famous Mayo Clinic—signed a letter which published in newspapers throughout Minnesota. These two statements banner the message:

We’re heartbroken.

We’re overwhelmed.

The carefully-crafted letter is powerful. Emotional. Factual. And, oh, so necessary. I feel deep gratitude to these healthcare leaders who joined in sending a strong message to Minnesotans. We need to hear this. All of us. Vaccinated. And unvaccinated.

The decision not to get vaccinated affects every single one of us. That’s clear in the words of these medical professionals, in daily media reports and in information from the Minnesota Department of Health. Emergency rooms are full. Hospital beds are full. And that means challenges in accessing healthcare. For treatment of COVID-19, cancer, injuries, heart attack… That should concern anyone and everyone. None of us knows when we might need immediate emergency medical care. The situation is “critical,” according to the letter.

I appreciate the honesty. The statement “…every day we’re seeing avoidable illness and death as a direct result of COVID19” points directly to the root of the current crisis. And the frustrations felt in the medical community. “How can we as a society stand by and watch people die when a simple shot could prevent a life-threatening illness?” Exactly. How? Why? I don’t get it and I share the frustrations of those nine Minnesota healthcare leaders and their associated healthcare teams.

They conclude their letter with an “ask.” Get vaccinated and boosted. Wear a mask (regardless of vaccination status). Socially distance. Get tested if you feel sick. Encourage others to follow those steps. None of that is new. But it just does not seem to be sinking in. Especially in rural areas. My roots are rural. I love and care about our rural communities. But the truth is that in many areas of Greater Minnesota, vaccination rates are low, COVID case counts high. This virus doesn’t care about rural or urban boundaries.

In Faribault, I see very few people masking in public. Our vaccination rates in Rice County could be better, especially in those under age 49. Of those eligible for the vaccine, from age five on up, only 62% have completed their vaccine series, according to Rice County Public Health (December 13 statistics). We’ve already lost 147 of our friends, family members and neighbors to COVID in our county. Some died before vaccines became available. And I expect, although I can’t confirm, that some recent deaths of seniors may be from break-through cases in that vulnerable population. But many likely are among the unvaccinated, a situation repeating throughout the country.

I feel for the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel staffing our hospitals. I have no doubt they feel heartbroken and overwhelmed. The stress. The demands. The never ending flow of COVID patients. The death all around. The grief. The helplessness. Day after day after day. Endless physical and mental exhaustion.

I am grateful for their fortitude. Their strength. Their compassion. Their care. And now, today, I feel grateful for this united message from nine healthcare professionals calling on all of us to come together, to do our part to end this pandemic.


NOTE: I moderate all comments and will not publish anti-vaccine, anti-mask and other such views on this, my personal blog.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


11 Responses to “From Minnesota healthcare leaders: “Heartbroken & overwhelmed””

  1. Becky Richie Says:

    Thanks for your article!

    • You are welcome, Becky. I just returned from a quick trip to and from southwestern Minnesota today. I stopped at convenience stores in Redwood Falls and New Ulm. Both were extremely busy. Not a single person, other than Randy and me, was wearing a face mask.

  2. It’s so easy to do these things and there is no reason to not. It’s baffling to me.

    • I agree. I’m still in disbelief over what I saw, or rather didn’t see, while in southwestern Minnesota yesterday. Not a single face mask on anyone in two convenience stores in two different communities. That is except for Randy and me in ours. At the Kwik Trip in New Ulm, I observed a cluster of unmasked elderly women visiting. There when I passed them on the way to the restroom, still there on my way out. The store was super busy. Masking is such an easy thing to do, to protect ourselves and to help stop the spread of COVID.

  3. I read on NPR and the Star Tribune that an ad was taken out by the major health providers. Hopefully it helps but my guess it will not. This late in the situation people are pretty set in their ways. We have over 80% fully vaccinated in The Netherlands and we still are over running the hospitals. Our governmental restrictions were extended until 14 Jan 2022 to try to reduce the spread going on right now. Although our numbers went from 24,000/day cases down to 16,000/day in the last three weeks once restrictions were put back in place it still hasn’t been enough. Scary to think what January will bring.

    • Paula, the ad you reference is the “letter” I reference in this post. You can read it by clicking on the link in the first sentence.

      I’m impressed by your vaccination rate in The Netherlands and by the measures being taken to stop the spread. Unfortunately, I think you’re right that people have their minds set. My extended family Christmas was cancelled for the second year in a row due to COVID. A request for everyone to test was offered as an option to make this year’s gathering happen. But that met with resistance. Yes, I have unvaccinated extended family. I am beyond frustrated.

      Thank you for caring about others. Stay healthy and well. My heart goes out to your DIL working in a hospital. I hope she’s doing OK.

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