Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What a mess, but we can “do something” January 14, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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One of my first pandemic images, photographed along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault in May 2020. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2020)

“THERE’S NOTHING ANY of us can do about it,” she said. I disagree.

“What a mess,” she texted. I fully agree.

Those assessments came in recent communications with two family members about the current state of COVID. While a certain resignation themes both comments, they differ.

I believe we hold the power to “do something” about COVID. We’ve always had the ability to end this pandemic. If only we would listen. And act. But now we’re in so deep to this not listening to health and science, but rather to the voices of misinformation and untruths and politics, that I wonder when we will ever get to the other side. (Note that I’m thankful for those of you who do listen to health and science and act.)

PROTECTING & PREVENTING

So what can we do? First and foremost, get vaccinated and that includes getting boosted. (Thank you to those who have done so.) I am aware of far too many individuals who went unvaccinated, got COVID and then died. Perhaps they didn’t believe the science, distrusted the vaccines, listened to a loved one/friend/politician/social media/doctor (yes, even a doctor) advising them not to get the shot, believed they were not at risk for serious illness or death. Reasons vary, but the end result was the same. Needless deaths. That breaks my heart.

None of us knows how COVID will affect our bodies. Until we get it. There’s no guarantee on outcome. But being vaccinated, and following CDC guidelines, assures us that we have done all we can to protect ourselves (and others) from severe disease and/or death. Data backs that.

THE FAITH COMPONENT

As a woman of faith, I’m particularly bothered by the attitude that we don’t need the vaccine because God will protect us through natural immunity or otherwise. He also gave us scientists, researchers and others who develop life-saving vaccines. I consider those individuals, those vaccines, a blessing. Just like I consider other advances in medicine through the years an absolute blessing. Without advances in medicine, and an acceptance of them, we’d be living in the 1800s and early to mid-1900s with women dying in childbirth, children dying of disease, too many people dying of heart attacks… Our life expectancy would be low.

I believe in the power of prayer and I trust in God. Yet, I wouldn’t stand on a railroad track, praying and trusting that God will stop a locomotive barreling toward me. That doesn’t mean my faith is lacking. Not at all. But recognizing the danger and then getting off the track would certainly be a wise decision if I wanted to live.

MASK UP, PEOPLE, JUST DO IT

We have plenty of tools to “do something” about COVID. That includes masking (N95, KN95 or tight-fitting multi-layer cloth over surgical, if you don’t have 95s), staying home if we’re sick, testing (yes, I recognize securing a test right now can be difficult), avoiding crowds, social distancing… Yet, I don’t see this necessarily happening. At least not in Faribault or in rural areas (especially) of Minnesota. Shopping at the grocery store recently found me attempting to slip past two unmasked men conversing and blocking an aisle. That’s not uncommon. Most people in Faribault do not wear face masks in public.

Our city, public school and county require masking inside their facilities. But when I stopped at the library a few days ago, I saw unmasked patrons. A notice on the front door states that masks are required. Masks are even available on a table. I can cite many other examples, but I think you’ve all seen the lack of masking or the ineffective half-masking/”chin diapers”/gaiters/clear plastic face shields.

I wish that employees at grocery stores and other local businesses would wear face masks. That would set an example and show me that the business cares about the health and safety of its customers and of the community in general. The same goes for houses of worship, a place where I would expect mask-wearing as a way to show love and care. These places need to require, not just recommend, face masks. Some Minnesota schools (Owatonna and Worthington, for example, but others also) are only now just requiring face masks. I’m not sure why it took so long, but I expect community resistance factored in.

LISTEN TO THE PLEAS & WARNINGS

What a mess. The mess we’ve gotten ourselves into reaches into every facet of our lives, particularly into healthcare and schools. Staffing shortages in hospitals threaten all of us. In Minnesota, hospitals are overwhelmed. Full. Once again, surgeries are being delayed. Quality of care is being affected as our healthcare providers are stretched thin. That’s according to media reports. I feel for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who are overwhelmed, frustrated and stressed by caring for COVID patients in this ongoing pandemic. I hear their pleas to the public. Their warnings. Minnesota government officials announced a plan Wednesday to hire temporary nurses, although I’m uncertain where they will find them. It’s a good, and necessary, move.

And in our schools, rising numbers of COVID cases are creating staff shortages and pushing some schools back to distance learning. Faribault Middle School went to distance learning today. And the high school goes to online classes on January 19. The plan now is to return to in-person learning on January 24.

More and more families are delaying funerals. That’s emotionally difficult, yet wise in days such as these. The family of Edward Kohman of Faribault writes in his obituary that a celebration of life for the 84-year-old will be held later “when it’s warmer and perhaps safer to gather.” He died as a result of COVID. The family goes on to write: Dad was vaccinated, but if you want to do something to honor his life, please make sure you are too. I appreciate when a family, even in their grief, considers the health and safety of others, and encourages vaccination. What a loving way to honor the man they loved.

It seems inevitable that all of us will get COVID given the highly-contagious omicron variant. But this is no time to give up. Vaccines, masking and other preventative/protective measures remain especially important. Now, more than ever, we need (like the Kohman family) to think beyond ourselves to the greater good, if we want to get ourselves out of this mess.

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NOTE: I moderate all comments and will not publish anti-vaccine, anti-mask, anti-science, anti-health and/or misinformation on this, my personal blog.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

10 Responses to “What a mess, but we can “do something””

  1. beth Says:

    yes, Audrey, I so agree

  2. Yes, yes, yes! I’ve been in quite a funk of late, my anger at those who refuse vaccines, who prance around unmasked in public spaces where there are other people to consider, quite deep. Good public health practices and medical information that has taken generations to develop discarded for political reasons or just plain selfishness is the worst example of being human right now; short-term self-satisfaction instead of long-term community sustainability. Some days, it feels like we are all doomed. And then I remember that those of us still trying are likely to live longer. I’ll consider that the best revenge.

  3. Judy shank Says:

    You are so right!!!!

  4. This has given me a real insight to how things are there right now. Thanks for sharing and for encouraging others to do the right thing for their community.
    We heard here that most everything (minus restaurants, museums, and large events) will open back up. There were protests around the country yesterday with businesses opening while the country was still in lockdown. People are frustrated everywhere. Our numbers are slowly going up and are huge 35,000/day as of yesterday but hospitalized are fewer than expected. Still I am careful. Suffering from immune issues means always thinking “is that trip to the store really worth it?” I would love for a time to return when I wouldn’t have to even consider that question.
    Stay safe, mask up, get vaccinated and help us defeat this virus!

    • Paula, I’m sorry you’re dealing with an equally as difficult situation in The Netherlands. Thank you for continuing to care, to take precautions, to do your part.

      Here in Minnesota, we are at our highest number of active cases (currently 67,000) during the pandemic. Hospitals are overwhelmed. More and more younger people are dying. It’s not “just the elderly” in nursing homes. I could go on and on.

      Some schools are only now beginning to require masks. St. Paul and Minneapolis have mandates (soon to go into effect) which will require proof of vaccination for restaurants, concert and sports venues, etc., anywhere food and beverages are served. Reaction has been mixed. Whatever you can imagine.

      My frustration level is through the roof. We just really need to all start caring about one another.


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