We are living in a historic moment. The Minnesota Historical Society is collecting and preserving Minnesotans’ stories related to the COVID-19 health crisis so future generations can learn how the pandemic has impacted our lives. We invite you to read a sampling of these stories here and to share your story.
Asian American Organizing Project presents “We Are Not Fighting Alone,” a zine compilation on the pandemic experiences from Minnesotan Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI). This zine discusses the warmhearted memories and struggles of family, school, discrimination, sexism, grief, and health. It is compiled by 2020 Storyteller Intern Npaus Baim Her.
Like many others, I have felt a vast range of emotions brought on by this pandemic. With a spouse in the service industry, many of my friends and colleagues laid off or furloughed, and the uncertainty about how we’ll all get through this, the stress and sadness have been incredibly difficult to bear. Yet, as the weeks go by and we continue living our lives in this new not-so-normal, I’ve been trying hard to let myself see the interesting and funny things happening around me.
As a Bookseller, I’ve gotten to see firsthand what types of things people are relying on to get through this time. My store is located in the Twin Cities and we’ve gotten to see what Minnesotans are reading during their quarantines and also what people all over the country are ordering online.
Week to week there have been slight differences in the topics that have been especially popular. The first week we sold a huge number of puzzles, lots of arts & crafts how-to books, and quite a few religious and spiritual books. All of those have continued to be popular, but as the weeks go by we’ve also seen a surge in books about the following topics:
Huge numbers of pet adoptions have occurred since the social distancing restrictions were implemented!
Many parents are helping their kids navigate schooling at home for the first time. It’s led to quite an appreciation for teachers.
Self Help (especially books about handling stress)
Addiction and Recovery
This has been an especially difficult time for those struggling with addiction as isolation can often compound feelings of loneliness and trigger relapse. I encourage people to call their local bookstore or search online to discover the multitude of books and resources that can help.
This section has almost completely sold out. I spoke with a woman on the phone recently who received her stimulus check and decided to use some of the money to purchase Large Print books to give to a local nursing home. That’s the type of call that makes me love what I do and makes me so proud to be Minnesotan.
Musical instrument practice guides and sheet music
From the outset of the Stay At Home order, those shelves have seen a large increase in sales.
As spring came around, more books about gardening were being ordered and even a few about caring for houseplants.
Some top-selling titles:
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Girl, Wash Your Face
Man’s Search For Meaning
We Booksellers of Minnesota are so happy that people are using this time to read and learn new things. Thanks for supporting your local bookstores and for supporting literacy!
~ Emily Ashton, a Twin Cities Bibliophile and Bookseller
The hardest part of the pandemic has been school--both as a teacher, and a parent of school-aged children. Of course we all want to be back in the classroom, but I cannot fathom teaching face-to-face right now. I understand why some parents are desperate to get their kids back in buildings. School, many people are realizing, is not only the place where their children learn math and reading and writing, but it’s also a place where their social-emotional needs are met. Where there’s someone who understands what students of a specific age are capable of and how to nurture them. But school has also been built as a racist institution, and this pandemic is illuminating that as well. My hope is we will not return to "normal," but that we will work to build something new and more equitable, and that other social programs will step in (be created?) to help schools with their vital roles in our society.
Devan and I originally had planned our wedding to have around 250 guests with lots of dancing and celebration on May 16th, 2020 in my parents’ backyard. In early March, I had my first (and only) dress fitting. This was the last time that I remember still thinking that my wedding would go off as planned. After MN shut down, we very quickly realized that the virus was not going away anytime soon and it was likely that our wedding would either have to be postponed indefinitely or changed dramatically.
After many sleepless nights, tears, and worrying, my husband-to-be and I decided that we did not want to wait for the pandemic to be over to get married. We sent out a mass email to all of our guests explaining that we were still going to get married but that we were postponing the reception until 2021 and limiting the number of guests invited to promote social distancing.
We invited less than 30 people. I have a large family so this meant that none of my cousins (besides my maid of honor) would be able to attend and only half of my aunts and uncles. We arranged to live-stream the ceremony for the remainder of our guests to watch and started work on the safe-guards that we would have to put in place.
Because of the nationwide shelter-in-place orders that were in effect, we were unable to pick up the groom’s suit because the store was closed. Luckily, we managed to find a store the week of that tailored a new suit for him in two days! (Thanks Keith from Heimie’s Haberdashery!)
In order to keep our chances of possibly spreading the virus among our guests low, we did the following:
- An aunt of mine offered to sew masks for all of our guests so that no one would have to provide their own. These were bagged individually and touched by no one for a week before the ceremony to make them as germ-free as possible.
- Devan and I took two weeks off of work to self-quarantine to ensure that we would not be a risk vector for our guests as we were both essential workers (daycare teacher and pharmacy technician).
- We prepared our own food while wearing gloves, masks, and hairnets. We bought to-go containers to serve it in so that guests could take it home with them if they did not want to stay.
- The day of, we covered the whole yard with dots 6 feet apart in a grid so that people could more easily social distance. Including dots on the floor inside the house for people who needed to go to the bathroom.
- The tables for dinner were also placed so that people were sitting at least six feet apart from people not within their circle.
- We bought a giant jug of hand sanitizer as well as some smaller ones that were placed near the entrance where people picked up their masks and around the house.
- We had no music or dancing and no help from outside of our families.
Although we managed to have fun with it, it was a very stressful and emotional time. It was far from our dream wedding (it also rained!) but everyone worked together to pull off a safe and very unique ceremony. People had been sad and stressed for so long and they were relieved to have something to celebrate. While it was impossible to ignore the pandemic that surrounded us, I think that we managed to make the best of the situation. No one got sick after attending our wedding and everyone said it was one of the most memorable weddings they had ever attended.
I turned 68 during the MN Stay at Home order. I am alone, have adequate retirement funds, though much less than I used to, and I’m generally healthy so most of my anxiety relates to the fates of my friends and acquaintances, some who have more underlying conditions that make the risk even higher. Some of the other worry was that I had not yet organized my life in case something happened to me.
What I really found surprising was my inability to concentrate for any length of time. I love to read and first thought that would be the way I would spend my time, but quickly discovered I could not even keep up my normal volume. The same came at watching TV or streaming services or my hobbies. I ended up with a quarantine daily score that I use almost as a mental health check.
~ Retired suburban senior
I am so fortunate that I took a picture of him through his window...the day that he went into the hospital
My father was the first one to test positive for COVID-19 at his assisted living facility in Blaine. He was 95 and 1/2 and immigrated from Europe with my mother in 1954. He was born in Poland and at one time was able to speak five languages!
The staff and I were in disbelief at his diagnosis because they had taken strict precautions and were proud to say that for the first few weeks throughout March and mid-April no one at the facility tested positive for COVID-19. I don't know if I had the virus at the end of February or how he got the virus is a mystery. However, one evening in mid-April, the staff said dad was exhibiting pain and was admitted to Mercy Hospital in Anoka with a UTI. He also had a temperature and that's when dad tested positive for COVID-19. He remained at Mercy Hospital for about 2 weeks and I could not see him until his last three days. I could not imagine the fear and anxiety he must have gone through because I could not be with him and he saw nothing but strange people in masks and gowns. Dad could not communicate his needs due to Alzheimer's.
My father passed away May 1, 2020, from a UTI and COVID-19 with underlying conditions from Alzheimer's. I am so fortunate that I took a picture of him through his window the afternoon of the day that he went into the hospital. He still knew me and was beckoning me to come inside and could not understand why I remained outside his room. I would go and see him every day and help him with meals and anything else that was going on. He was one of the longest living people at his assisted living facility--and thrived there almost 3 years. Thankfully I took the last picture of him inside his room after his lunch. I had that gift of being able to be with him his last three days. I insisted that I be there when the doctors knew he was going to pass.
~ Daughter of a 95 ½-year-old man who had COVID-19 in an assisted living facility
In the pandemic infancy, as life transitioned into lockdown, death seemed far off. As a veteran homeschool-educator, my everyday life remained unscathed. I was thankful and curious about how others would handle education at home. I wondered if the rest of the world’s homes would end up with heaps of laundry, dishes, and books like mine. It took me only a decade to figure out homeschooling life and I was in awe of those parents and educators who quickly shifted gears into uncharted waters.
March gave way to April and in April Ramadan started. In Ramadan, I spent some time fantasizing about food but pushed through the hunger with scripture and repentance.
As Ramadan wrapped up, endless Eid phone calls were due. In one particular phone call there was a faint, but alarming cough of our loved one that pierced our ears and hearts. In just a few days the virus found a new victim and he was taken back to God. To say our family was devastated, shocked, and traumatized is an understatement.
I will admit from March to June I was heavily distracted by news and events and how its divisiveness unfolded and how divisiveness cemented heavily in our country. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I fell In that trap of clinging to current events like some sick life raft. I needed to make a change, and our loved one’s death needed to mean something, it needed to propel and prompt something good in me.
In July, I finally landed on perpetual patience. It took a while, almost half a year to get the hang of patience in a pandemic. It required acceptance of silence and isolation. Pandemic silence is haunting, unnerving, but can give you that one split second where you can hear God and His calling.
During this time, in moments of isolation, I worked on deepening my love for God and all His people. I started doing something I’ve never done before, I honed my prayers. I especially focused on intensely praying for those who spread mischief and corruption. It was a release and it was uplifting for me to let that go. It opened my heart profoundly and allowed me to move on to more meaningful pursuits of self-purification.
~ An American-Muslim Convert
In the past 15 years, robotics has become an increasingly popular high school activity. Spring is generally the competition season for robotics, but it was cut short in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Making the most of our canceled season, our team 3D printed over 5000 face shields, while working with other organizations and robotics teams to fulfill orders for over 15,000 shields. This is our story.
It began when one of our coaches asked the local middle school principal if he could pull the 7 printers out of the school to print PPE from his office. The principal took it a step further and said if the robotics team was willing to run a lab, he would consolidate all the unused printers from the 3 middle schools and our high school in a single location. Within 48 hours of the initial request, we had developed a health safety plan and were setting up printers to create a fabrication lab, with support of the high school and district administrators, as well as the school board.
By Monday, April 6th, we were running at full capacity with 24 3D printers. Team KnightKrawler staffed the lab with one adult and 2-4 students per shift. Using morning and afternoon shifts, the printers ran 6 days a week, 10 hours a day.
We spent significant time that first week making adjustments to our printer settings and fixing worn out parts on the school printers. Soon we were making over 200 3D printed visors each day.
Several people have asked us how hard it was for students to switch from building robots to running a big operation that was delivering thousands of face shields a week. The answer is surprising to many. It wasn’t hard at all. KnightKrawler students are taught to work as professionals. We use real-world business processes to manage our work, use professional communication tools, and adjust quickly when unexpected challenges arise.
On the first day, one of our students had completely changed our website to have a new landing page for our COVID-19 response. She included an online order form, which populated a spreadsheet for our order system. The next day, she set up a Scrum board. Scrum is a popular project management technique we use to manage all our tasks in robotics. We used this process to track our orders from the backlog to pickup and delivery.
Robotics is a team sport where we divide work, share responsibility, and often jump from one task the next. When we need to solve a problem, for which there is not a ready-made solution, we design and build the mechanism needed to accomplish the task. When something breaks during a competition, we quickly assess the problem and fix it. This year we had multiple situations where our robot had a part break in a previous match and was still being repaired while being positioned on the field for the start of the next match. Our students are trained to work under pressure with a sense of urgency.
In many ways, the pivot from building robots to making face shields was a familiar undertaking. The students identified a new challenge, created a plan, executed those plans, and made improvements along the way. While the conditions of this pandemic are unfamiliar, the way in which we transitioned our season fell well within the skill sets we use every day at robotics.
By the time we had optimized our 3D printing process, we discovered obtaining the clear shield plastic was going to be a problem. We started using office supplies such as report covers and overhead transparencies. We soon found that nearly every office supply store was sold out of these products.
The answer to this problem surprised us one day when two rolls of plastic weighing 250lb each arrived on a big truck from 3M, one of our team sponsors. This provided enough plastic to make 11,000 shield parts. In late April, a maker collaborative sent us two additional rolls capable of making 7,000 shields. Finally, in May, we received a 900lb roll from Stratasys that would make an estimated 18,000 face shields.
You can’t just run to the hardware store and buy something to hold a 900lb roll of material or pick up a cutter for a 24” wide piece of plastic. As with robotics, the problem required us to evaluate the problem and build a custom solution. One of our students created a rail-mounted cutter from robot parts that used standard utility knife blades, then later iterated on his design to make it bigger and capable of cutting it two directions to improve speed. The principles of design, prototype, test, and iterate naturally flowed into our creation of an assembly line that allowed us to make 2000-3000 shield parts per day.
It didn’t take long for the public to take notice of what we were doing. Soon we had thousands of orders in our backlog, far more than we could hope to fill in a month. We created a campaign to get assistance from other organizations and teams to help us create the 11,000 visors it would take to use up our first two large rolls of shield plastic. Within weeks, we had received thousands of visors 3D printed by other teams and organizations. By late April, the industry had finally retooled their manufacturing and we started to receive several thousand injection-molded visors per week. The significant cost and time savings of injection molding over 3D printing led us to stop all printing at the end of April, relying solely on the injection-molded visors to fill orders.
Television reporters and newspapers picked up the story and further spread the good news of what we were doing. We received orders from intensive care units, neonatal departments, maternity wards, cardiac units, cancer treatment centers, police departments, fire departments, dentists, daycare workers, senior homes, assisted living centers, and those who were caring directly for COVID-19 patients.
This experience has led to some great partnerships with other teams in St Louis, MO, Portland, OR, Mountain View, CA and Flagstaff, AZ. We have received orders from several states across the US. By partnering with these teams, we have been able to fill large 500 unit orders faster and more efficiently.
Our team wasn't alone in this effort either. By mid-April, most of the Minnesota robotics teams we knew were helping the cause in one way or another, through 3D printing shields, collecting food and donations, and even making grocery-delivering robots.
While robotics isn't as well-known as most high school sports, the impact we make on our communities is significant, and the FIRST robotics program truly prepares students to tackle challenges in the real-world.
View a video on Team KnightKrawler’s work.
~ Submitted by Scott on behalf of the KnightKrawler Robotics Team of Irondale High School
We can no longer visit my grandparents which we used to do every weekend. I also don't have a phone so I haven't been in contact with most of my friends since before spring break. It all makes me feel very frustrated that I can't do the things that I normally do this time of year like camping. The observations I've made are lots of local businesses are closing for good because they don't have enough money to reopen and you realize how much you rely on certain businesses when you can't use them like barbers, libraries, and movie theaters. I want the future generations to know that it is extremely dull, nothing happens at all. Also, you most likely hate school but trust me at least you can just walk right up to your teachers and ask questions. I have to email them then hope they see it and answer right away and then give me the information I need.
It is a very hard time and I’m almost positive this has made an impact on everyone. I think this is mother nature’s way of telling us that we have been polluting her land and she needs time to pick up the mess that we have made. I am getting very stressed as this goes on and as it does, people could be getting more and more worried that they are going to get this virus. The coronavirus is a horrible thing but I think mother nature just needs a break from the pollution that we have made. My only message is stay home, stay safe, and I wish everyone good luck during this pandemic.
I’ve had to have school at home. I don’t really mind staying at home but I think it’s harder to learn. I’ve seen that people buy a lot of toilet paper. I would want future generations to know that people panicked a lot throughout this time, leaving their jobs so I guess don’t panic unless you really have to panic.
COVID-19 has turned everyone's lives upside down. From social distancing to wearing masks, quarantining, working from home, being furloughed, and more--it's been stressful, to say the least! What gives me hope is seeing friends and family continue to celebrate life in whatever way they can! On April 25th, one of my college friends got married. She planned the wedding for over a year and I was the maid of honor. As someone in their mid-20s, it was exciting because she was my first friend to get married and it was my first time as a maid of honor. A few weeks before the wedding, however, the bride and groom chose to cancel the large ceremony and reception due to the coronavirus. Instead, they decided to have a small ceremony with their parents, and live stream the ceremony. This was especially hard for the bride, but also for those of us in the bridal party. COVID-19 meant we couldn't celebrate together in person, but I was so happy that Bailee still chose to get married that day. Instead of giving a toast in front of people at the reception, I got dressed up and recorded a toast in the corner of my room. I spoke with Bailee over video chat while the stylist did her hair and makeup. I watched her wedding reception while wearing pajamas and snuggling with my cat. It's not what any of us expected for a wedding in 2020, but everyone still found a way to make it special.
That's what I hold on to during this tough time--in the midst of all the stress and uncertainty, life goes on and we celebrate the important moments. During three months of quarantine, I watched one of my best friends get married from afar and I became an aunt for the first time. I held my month-old nephew for the first time this week after strictly quarantining for two weeks. We're all making sacrifices right now in different ways and it's hard. I can't wait for the day when we can all physically be together safely.
~ Maid of Honor