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‘It’s bad, it’s bad’: Minnesotans’ on-the-street talk about how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting their lives

Monday started with ominous skies befitting the calm-before-the-storm feeling on the eerily quiet streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and ended with Gov. Tim Walz closing bars, restaurants, and pretty much everywhere else people congregate, in hopes of staving off the spread of COVID-19. MinnPost talked to Minnesotans on Monday — practicing social distancing of 6 feet apart all the while — about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their lives. In words and photos:

Justin Skyberg, head brewer and operations manager at Lyn-Lake Brewery
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Justin Skyberg, head brewer and operations manager at Lyn-Lake Brewery, a few hours before Walz announced the closing of bars, including the south Minneapolis brew pub: “The last month has been terrible, and this last weekend was a 50 percent decline from that. Personally, I’ve been sitting at home doing nothing, because I’ve got a whole bunch of people in my family who are high-risk, so there’s no point in going out. With the marquee (“WASH UR HANDS”), we were trying to make sure that the community knows that we’re doing everything that we can. We don’t use glass anymore, so we’re just using single-serve plastic. It’s not the best thing for the environment, but I think for the meantime it’s the best solution, rather than having people touching glassware 50 times a day, spreading stuff around. We’re doing everything we can.”


Adrian Kow, Yow Lim, Hunley Ken on University Avenue in Dinkytown
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Adrian Kow, Yow Lim, Hunley Ken on University Avenue in Dinkytown: “We three are from Malaysia; they go to Iowa State University, I go to University of Minnesota,” said Kow. “First things first, I usually go to the gym often, but now that the pandemic has hit the university, I don’t feel safe going to the gym anymore. And also, I prefer in-person instruction much more. Now that it’s moved online, I feel less motivated to take classes now. Yes, I’m worried. Because in Malaysia, it’s been two weeks since the country was in lockdown. So [people only take to] private places, no one’s outside anymore.” “We were concerned about coming to Minnesota because of the pandemic, but in the end we went through with our plan,” said Lim. “It’s scary and I’m pretty afraid, but in my daily life I feel better if I wear my mask and keep washing my hands to prevent it.”   

Jessica Campana outside the Minnesota Public Radio offices in downtown St. Paul
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Jessica Campana outside the Minnesota Public Radio offices in downtown St. Paul: “It’s kind of uncertain right now. Not sure if I should be staying home. We have one child, day care has stayed open for now, but I’m not sure that’s going to last; I’m going to have to start staying home if my husband’s not going to have customers to go to. I’m in [real estate] marketing; my husband’s a welding consultant, so he travels all over the Midwest, so right now all of his appointments have been canceled. I’m one of the fortunate few who are able to work remotely; I just like being in the office. For me, [the outbreak] hasn’t really directly affected me, I would say. Since I’m fairly young, I’m not too worried. It doesn’t seem to be impacting people my age or people my daughter’s age, but my in-laws are in the demographic that are at risk, so I’m worried for them and worried for all my friends in the service industry who are being put out of work.”

A forlorn employee sits and stares out of the shuttered front door of the Apple Store onto an empty Hennepin Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis on Monday, March 16.
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
A forlorn employee sits and stares out of the shuttered front door of the Apple Store onto an empty Hennepin Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis on Monday, March 16.
Joshua Dalton at a packed Cub Foods on W. Broadway in north Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Joshua Dalton at a packed Cub Foods on W. Broadway in north Minneapolis: “I come to this Cub a lot, but today is way busier than it usually is. It’s crazy. I came here a few times; I tried to come earlier today, and now all the stores are closing early because they don’t got enough stuff. Nobody wants to be the one who ain’t get nothing. I had to come get essentials, water and all that stuff. I ordered my mask online. It’s just protection. I don’t want anybody that close. I know it won’t prevent everything, but just a little precaution. Everybody’s worried about it, but if they start panicking, it’s gonna get crazier than it is right now. Everybody’s just snatching up what they can, because we don’t know.”


Jeff Kamin at a packed Lunds & Byerlys in Uptown, Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Jeff Kamin at a packed Lunds & Byerlys in Uptown, Minneapolis: “I’m feeling a bit frantic. My wife heard that we’re going to hear some more bad news today, and we should be stocking up right now. She has it on good authority, so I’m stocking up. My prediction is all nonessential businesses closed. So our kids are out of school; we’ve got one at Justice Page and one at Holy Angels, and my [mood] is not great. I did not want to go out and do this. That’s why it feels silly; this is a painter’s mask, and my wife said, ‘stock up,’ and I couldn’t order online because [delivery is] days out.”

Dominique Tucker
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Dominique Tucker, down the street from an Orpheum Theatre marquee that reads “Joe Bonamasa Cancelled” and underneath the Brave New Workshop’s marquee, on a deserted Hennepin Avenue: “I’m homeless right now. I’ve been homeless for a couple years now, but I have hope I will find a place. I have just recently heard about the virus on the news, and I’m worried about what’s going to happen, and about how many people are going to die. I hear it’s going to wipe out a lot of people. I’m a little nervous about getting something like that, and not being able to live.”

Jan Kleinman, walking the sparsely-populated walking path at Lake of the Isles
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Jan Kleinman, walking the sparsely populated path at Lake of the Isles in Uptown, Minneapolis: “It’s made me more aware of my personal distance from my loved ones. It’s made me aware of how easily we can be induced to panic when there is no need to panic. We just need to be sensible. Follow the rules, follow the recommendations, and read a dose of news and stop, so it doesn’t consume our worries and our lives. [Walking] provides me connection with my friends, and some fresh air, and we’re not cooped up in some small space so I’m thinking this is a safe way to be social and to keep up our exercise in times of concern.”

James Briggs, on a deserted N. 1st Avenue in downtown Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

James Briggs, on a deserted N. 1st Avenue in downtown Minneapolis: “I’m not much for that panicking mode, but when everyone around you is panicking, I second guess what I normally would feel. From what I hear on the news, it’s affecting the older people, because our immune system isn’t as good as the young people’s. I’m 61, I’ll be 62 in May. It’s getting kind of scary, you know? I have grandkids in day care, and if this is out there, they have a chance of contracting it, too. They say wear the mask, and this is the first time I’ve worn it. I stay with my daughter, and she wanted me to wear it, so I wear it to put her mind at ease and I guess myself, too. I’m like this: If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. There’s no ducking it. How can you contain something that they don’t know who’s got it? I could have it here, talking to you! It gets scary after a while, man, after you’ve constantly been hearing this stuff over and over on the news. My brother’s a police officer in Chicago, and he says they’re closing hospitals, schools, people are piled up at the airports. It’s bad, it’s bad.”


Shamso Mohamed in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Shamso Mohamed in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, across the street from a Cedar Cultural Center marquee proclaiming, “All concerts through April 15 have been cancelled/postponed”: “I would say it has made me more cautious about my surroundings, around the people who I’m around, just being aware of my distance with people when I’m communicating with them. As of right now, I don’t know anyone who has been impacted by the virus directly. With the type of work I do, as a social worker, I’m in contact with clients all the time. So I’m worried, but I’m just being more cautious; that’s my most important thing.”

Manager Katie Schille and bartender Kellie Sabin practiced social distancing at Shamrock’s Bar
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Manager Katie Schille and bartender Kellie Sabin practiced social distancing at Shamrock’s Bar on W. 7th Street in downtown St. Paul. Said Schille, an hour before Walz closed the bars and restaurants: “I feel like this virus is something that’s scary for all of us. I feel like as Minnesota, we’re doing the right thing to help slow the spread. I know it’s not an easy decision to want to close small businesses, but I think it’s the right decision and I think our owners (Ted Casper and Mike Runyon) have done a fantastic job going through with that: They’ve decided that, instead of having a big celebration for St. Pat’s tomorrow, which we have had for the last 14 years, they can’t with a clear conscience go through with it, so they have decided to go with no dining-in services as of tomorrow; we will be doing some to-go orders and limited delivery moving forward until we know more.”

Sabin: “It’s been dead like this all day. We close our doors at midnight. … The owners here just really care about people and aren’t so concerned about the loss they’re going to take, they just want everybody to be well and make it through all of this. They’ve been very good about keeping all the employees up on their options, be it unemployment benefits or picking up odd jobs — like for St. Patrick’s Day tell everybody to give us a call and we’ll deliver them their corned beef and cabbage.”

Anthony Deutsch was one of two people sitting at the bar at Blarney’s Pub
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Anthony Deutsch was one of two people sitting at the bar at Blarney’s Pub in Dinkytown Monday afternoon: “I frequent this place four times a year. I work in mental health at Abbott-Northwestern, and thought I’d come have [an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration], because I work tomorrow and I can just imagine how hard my team has been working with all the things going on. But the pubs should be closed, because as of right now, a lot of people are desperate for help, and right now, the president is talking on TV with his response team, and people just don’t feel confident.”

Abi Titus on a deserted Nicollet Mall
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Abi Titus on a deserted Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis: “I work for Caribou Coffee; we’re not getting very many people in, so that affects my work, and I can’t pay my rent, and that sucks. We’re staying open, so that’s good. I don’t really blame anyone for it, but I do think it’s ridiculous that people are buying out things to resell them; I just think that is obnoxious and conceited. I’m worried sometimes about what will happen, but right now I’m just going home to take care of my kitten.”

Taylor Olesen, bartender at Lowbrow
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Taylor Olesen, bartender at Lowbrow in south Minneapolis, not long after bars and restaurants were closed across Minnesota: “As of right now I have maybe one shift a week for to-go orders, because we’re allowed to do that. Other than that, I have nothing. All three of my jobs are currently closed. Heather [Bray], the owner, has been doing a really great job of helping us find options and guiding us to unemployment help or resources we can use in these times. As of now we’re doing curbside [pick-up] service to go and we’ll bring it out to you. We’re no longer doing in-house after today.”

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Joseph Rydholm on 03/17/2020 - 11:26 am.

    Great reporting, Jim. Helpful to read about such a huge cross-section of people and how they are impacted by the virus.

  2. Submitted by Ed Biren on 03/17/2020 - 11:37 am.

    This crisis is far from over and the shouting subdued but you’ve done a great feature on how it’s just beginning to impact a diverse group of all of us.

  3. Submitted by Diane Mach on 03/17/2020 - 01:52 pm.

    This a thoughtful and important piece that captures the impact on all of us.
    We are in this together, and it is only just beginning. Follow the recommended guidelines. Those who don’t have symptoms may have the virus, so everyone, please mitigate spread by following the public health officials’ pleas: stay home, wash your hands, disinfect surfaces, and practice social distancing.

  4. Submitted by John N. Finn on 03/18/2020 - 06:20 am.

    I took a St. Pat Day afternoon bicycle ride around my SE MN downtown and university neighborhood. Taverns were busy with groups of kids all over and some outdoor keg parties. Bars seemed to have closed at 5pm. I don’t know if the house parties moved inside after dark, but didn’t hear any of the festivities we would otherwise expect on my street which has student rental housing.

  5. Submitted by Wayne Nealis on 03/18/2020 - 09:03 am.

    Thanks for the excellent reporting on the mood of our fellow citizens. Uplifting for all.

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