THIS IS A COVID-RELATED public service announcement for residents of Faribault and then of broader Rice County. But, even if you don’t live here, read on.
First some facts: Rice County residents continue to die of COVID or COVID-related illnesses. Look at stats from Rice County Public Health or the Minnesota Department of Health. Or read the obituaries.
In a county with a population of about 67,000 we have lost 163 of our friends/family/neighbors to this awful virus. And, yes, I’ve known some of those who died. My heart hurts.
Early on in the pandemic, there was no vaccine to protect against serious illness or death. Much was unknown. That has changed. We have vaccines now and approved options to treat those with COVID. And, yes, the vaccine is less effective against the omicron variant with many break-through cases. Yet, those who are vaccinated/fully-boostered are much less likely to become seriously ill or die than the unvaccinated.
Our county infection rate remains high with a current 11.54 percent positivity rate. Still, that’s better than many other counties, especially rural counties farther from the metro. A week or so ago, a neighboring county had a positivity rate of nearly 40 percent. Yes. Forty.
Our vaccination rate in Rice County seems stalled at around 64 percent. We can do better.
And we can do a heckuva a lot better at wearing face masks in indoor public settings. The omicron variant is highly-contagious and it’s our responsibility as members of this community to do our best to protect ourselves and others. Underline others. This is not solely about me, myself and I. This is about community, the common good. Our friends. Our neighbors. Our families. Our co-workers. Masking is one way to prevent the spread of this virus. There are people in our communities/families/circles who are especially vulnerable to complications from COVID because of age and/or health issues. Wearing face masks is one simple way to show we care about the health of others by helping prevent spread of the virus.
Now our local government officials have made finding protective face masks a whole lot easier by offering free N99 masks to the public. The City of Faribault received a shipment. Residents can pick up masks at city hall, the fire station, the police department, the community center and the library, while limited supplies last.
Rice County Public Health acquired N99s from the Minnesota Department of Health and is giving them away (one to two per person) at city halls in Dundas, Faribault, Lonsdale, Morristown and Nerstrand; at libraries in Faribault, Lonsdale and Northfield; at the Faribault Community Center; and at the Rice County government services building.
And, yes, the tighter, snug-fitting filter masks (N99, N95, KN95) are necessary to effectively protect against the highly-transmissible omicron variant. Cloth masks, gaiters, etc. are not nearly as effective against omicron as the earlier delta variant. Still, anything is better than nothing. But let’s opt for the now available N99, N95 or KN95.
The best protection is still vaccination, which includes the booster shot.
I remain concerned about our overtaxed healthcare system with overworked staff, delays in care due to staff and ICU shortages, and more. I’m not talking just COVID here. I’m talking healthcare for every single one of us who may need it. Stuff happens. Heart attacks. Motor vehicle accidents. Cancer. This list goes on and on. Again, this is about all of us, not me, myself and I.
NOTE: I moderate all comments and will not publish anti-mask and anti-vaccine views or misinformation on this, my personal blog. Thank you for doing your part to keep our communities healthy.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling