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‘DIFFICULT AND CHALLENGING’: Southeast Minnesotans searching for hope as cases and restrictions increase

Historic bank building in Owatonna

(FOX 47) -- Saturday capped off a grim week for Minnesota with the report of 6,265 new cases and an additional 51 deaths. In Olmsted County alone, 92 new cases and an additional death announced by health officials.

The strain on the healthcare system and people's well-being is taking its toll.

"I'd like to acknowledge that the difficulty of the last eight months is almost unimaginable," said Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday.

No county is immune from the increased spread of the virus. In Dodge County, Saturday brought 13 new cases in Dodge and 43 in Steele plus an additional death from COVID-19.

In response to case growth, the past two weeks have brought new restrictions from the governor.

"We know this has been difficult and challenging," Walz said. "Much has been asked of you but I need to ask a little more."

Much has been asked of businesses.

The Music Space of Owatonna has faced multiple obstacles this year: the owner battling cancer, renovating their old space, finding a temporary home and only being open two days a week.

"We haven't had a lot of traffic frankly," said employee Rachel Schroeder.

The slow traffic forced the store to explore online sales.

At her other job at a women's shelter, Schroeder says she sees the pandemic's impact as well.

"We're seeing numbers and referrals go through the roof," said Schroeder, explaining need is growing but the process of housing people has slowed.

The virus is spreading across county lines. It is evident by the 28 cases each in Freeborn and Mower Counties.

It makes everyday life decisions quite risky and confusing.

"Do I go to work today? What is the safest thing to do? I think that's the hardest part," Schroeder said. "You just don't know what the right thing to do is."

Fillmore County saw the smallest growth with only eight new cases reported Saturday.

However in these trying times, it can be hard to be grateful for anything. Yet Minnesotans are still finding things to be thankful for even if their holiday plans have to be changed.

"It's not going to be a normal year for us," Schroeder said. "It will be me and mom which is great. I'm really thankful for quite a bit in my life right now."

One thing she is thankful for is the opportunity to get the new Music Space of Owatonna location open. The new space will host live shows after renovations and the shutdown.

Walz reminds Minnesotans to be diligent over the next four weeks.

"The decisions that we make now will have huge repercussions on the health and well-being of healthcare providers, daycare providers, teacher and so many of our neighbors," the governor said.

To keep fellow Minnesotans safe, Gov. Walz is urging resident to rethink their holiday plans to avoid large group gatherings and close contact.

It's an effort to keep as many loved ones as possible alive for next Thanksgiving.

Alex Tejada

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