- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - It’s been six months since the coronavirus came to Minnesota.

The first case was confirmed in early March. Less than two weeks later, we shut down.

So much has changed.

We spoke to an array of our community members - a survivor, a community leader, a nurse, a police officer and others - and asked them: How has your life changed?

Here’s what they said.



THE SURVIVOR

Karen Rabe Schmidt, 61, of Hastings, spent 10 horrific days in the hospital in April with COVID-19. She says she still hasn’t fully recovered, nor has her partner, Mike Goebel, who was also hospitalized with the virus, the Pioneer Press reported.

“I have some really good days, and I have some really bad days still. There are days when my chest hurts so bad that I can barely catch a breath. I get so tired so easily. I have some cognitive issues, too, where I know the words I want to say, but they won’t come to me right away. That’s really discouraging.”

“I’m losing my hair. I run my hand through my hair and just pull out clumps. It was one of my crowning glories, my thick hair. It’s really thinned out a lot.”

“Overall, we’re just thankful that we are still alive. We’re here. We’re up and mobile. For the most part, we’re doing great. Yes, we have some bad days, but we’re here.”

“I’m still very sad that people don’t seem to be taking it seriously. It has totally changed our life. We can’t go out. We really think about when we go out and do things now. I hope to God that people don’t get this. If they do, I hope to God that they don’t get it as bad as we did. I don’t know why it affects some more than others, but if you are one of the ones who gets affected, it is terrible.”

THE NURSE

Kelley Anaas of St. Paul is an intensive care nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and mother to 1-year-old Gunnar and 4-year-old Elsie.

“It’s kind of become our new normal, having part of our unit dedicated to COVID isolation, and the other part of our unit dedicated to the patients we usually take care of who require ICU care. We’ve gotten better at carrying along the fears and anxieties of caring for these patients who are so sick, and so contagious in ways that we don’t usually see.”

“When labs show they’re not oxygenating well, you roll them onto their abdomen. That used to be a six- to eight-person job, and now we get it done with four people. It’s become so ingrained in our workflow now, we just grab four people and say, ‘We’re proning in Room 50,’ and monitor where the IV lines are and the heart monitors. It’s kind of like trying to not to wrap someone in Christmas lights.”

“We’re doing a lot more talking on the phone to families and patients. We stock all the material supplies. We do the housekeeping. We take out our own laundry and garbage in our area. It’s a lot more than what we’re used to doing. It preserves PPE and limits the amount of staff who are exposed.”

THE PASTOR

Pastor Steve Daniels Jr., 69, is shepherd of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in St. Paul, which saw 500 to 700 worshipers on Sunday mornings before COVID. He has been preaching via livestream for the past six months.

“It has most definitely changed my regular routine, my method of ministering to the people, as well as the preaching, as well as attending to the needs of the people, the teaching. It has changed all of that. But you know, you find ways and means to do things to still accommodate your people, to do your work. It has really challenged me mentally and psychologically, but you rise above it because you, being a shepherd of a congregation, your people still have needs and even more needs during this virus. You find ways to still do it remotely - a telephone call, and in some cases visits, even though you have your masks and you’re doing your social distancing, but you minister to them.

“The mega churches, the mega ministries are really taking the hit, because you’ve got all of this real estate, and no one is in it. We had a routine, a ritual, a format that we followed and all of us had gotten comfortable and relaxed. They were coming to us. That was abruptly changed. Now we’re serving more as a sacrificial lamb because we are doing the things we need to do to minister to our people. Now we are all working. You don’t want your people to scatter. You’ve got to try to keep your herd together.”

THE COMMUNITY LEADER

Sia Her is the executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.

“Our community members are coping with the fear and anxiety and so many other stressors that come from COVID-19. Many are small-business owners and in the early days, in March and into April, the conversations were focused on, ‘How am I going to pay my mortgage now that I’m not bringing in the revenue that I was?’

“Then it became incredibly intense when we started talking about anti-Asian sentiment and what family members and community members were experiencing as they were going about grocery shopping or getting gas. I’m sure that it’s still happening, we’re just not hearing about it as much as we did initially.

“In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death, the unrest that followed brought about another wave of conversations that were very much focused on the emotional turmoil that business owners and community leaders were experiencing. There were many conversations where I could hear crying on the other side of the line.”

THE NURSING HOME RESIDENT

James Monroe, 75, is a resident of the Good Samaritan Society - Specialty Care Community in Robbinsdale, where, like every other long-term care facilities, restrictions have been in place for six months. That eliminated weekly visits from siblings, nieces and nephews until June, when outdoor visits were allowed.

“They come see me when they have time. They tell me when they are going to come.”

To occupy his time, Monroe makes latch-hook rugs and assemble models. He’s working on a white rug with roses that he plans to hang on the wall of his room “because I don’t want it stepped on.”

Once the pandemic ends and visitor restrictions are lifted, Monroe, who is single and never had children, plans to embark on his most ambitious project yet - the construction of a “Babylon 5″ spaceship model.

“I have to have my nephew help me with that, so he can read the directions. I can’t wait until this is over.”

THE BUSINESS MANAGER

Ann Franquiz is the manager at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Woodbury.

Business has dropped, some employees have been dismissed and the store trimmed back its hours. “No one is shopping late in the evening,” said Franquiz.

“I share an office with three people, and we wipe it down every time. I don’t know if there will be any letters left on the keyboards.

“I have two kids, and they have been together 24 hours a day since March. The other day, one was breathing, and that was annoying to the other one. Yesterday, I had to pull one of them off of Xbox, when he was supposed to be in school. His comment was: ‘I hate school like this.’ ”

Franquiz is alarmed by the difficulties of distance learning. “Can we take a gap year? Can we not do this?” she said.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD LEADER

Tia Williams is co-director of the Frogtown Neighborhood Association in St. Paul.

“We had to change the food distribution that we’ve been doing on Fridays for the last four years. It used to be a shopping experience, and now it’s a drive-up and delivery service. We’re still helping 300 to 400 individuals a month.

“Our conversations have been focused on, ‘What resources does our community need?’ and ‘How do we engage people in conversation?’ We’re attempting to find funding and resources to build a community gazebo on the corner of Thomas and Western (avenues), where benches and tables would be eight to 10 feet apart. Another problem with COVID is people are so isolated, so this would be a space where people can be in conversation with each other.

“Personally, I feel like there’s such a challenge between people saying, ‘I need to get back to work so I can keep paying my rent,’ and safety. What are we sacrificing to do that?”

THE MUSICIAN

Musician Janey Winterbauer (Courtesy photo)

Janey Winterbauer is a Twin Cities musician.

“I’ve been sending postcards to long-lost pals and watching a lot of old game shows. I’ve also rediscovered how much I enjoy being alone. Watching people interact on screen is enough for me!”

THE COP

Mat Jones is a St. Paul police officer who patrols the Western District.

“Policing hasn’t changed too much because people are still calling for the same things that they’ve always called for, but as far as the department, we have a lot of protocol changes. I clean my squad car before my shift and after my shift for the next person.

“The idea of wearing a mask going to calls is a little bit different. We get a lot of information from people’s faces. … That piece of it is just missing now.

“As far as citizens we run into, you can see that people are stressed, people are tired, people are worn out about this kind of stuff, so that impacts their responses, their behaviors.”

THE BUSINESS OWNER

Billy Hagberg is a co-owner of Hagberg’s Country Market in Lake Elmo.

“It’s been extraordinarily busy from the get-go. Business is about 50 percent more this year. In fact, we were so exhausted that we decided to be closed on Mondays. That is a major thing for us - we have always been open seven days a week.

“Occasionally, someone gets mad when we tell them to wear masks. One guy said, ‘I thought I woke up in America this morning, but evidently it’s communist China.’ ”

THE SUBURBAN OFFICIAL

Ryan Schroeder is the city manager of West St. Paul.

“Almost every meeting both external and internal is virtual, which has improved efficiency of both the meetings and eliminated the need to schedule travel time in between. Recreation programming has been virtually eliminated, but we are bringing some of that back with changes in how we manage buildings and customer-facing activities.

“We are preparing for a significant portion of our voters to ballot absentee, which creates the need to make personnel and technology changes, but we view this positively.

“Our police department traditionally is very community-focused, hosting neighborhood and community events. These have almost all been eliminated. Our city council meetings were completely virtual from April to June. We are now meeting in the council chambers again with limited seating and distancing restrictions. However, we have introduced call-in citizen comments, and our workshops are now cablecast in reaction to limited attendance by the public in person. These are certainly positive changes.”

THE CAFE OWNER

Mandy Wroolie is owner and manager of MiniSota Play Cafe in Champlin, which opened almost two years ago.

“It’s definitely changed my outlook. I’m about entrepreneurship and the American Dream. When we started all this I thought this would all be up to me and how hard I worked.

“All of sudden in March the government closed us down and there’s nothing we could do about it.

“We’re open now, but with things stuck at 50 percent capacity, it’s basically impossible to keep my business alive. I could be evicted any day. I cannot afford to pay what my landlord is asking.

“People come up to me and say, ‘So happy you made it!’ and I just look at them and say, ‘I haven’t.’

“I haven’t made anything. So many of these small businesses haven’t made it at all.

“I’m constantly going to live in a state of fear moving forward.”

(Mary Divine, Mara H. Gottfried, Frederick Melo, Ross Raihala, Nick Ferraro, Bob Shaw and Deanna Weniger contributed to this report.)

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