Last weekend, my wife Susan and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary by having dinner at Torey’s in Owatonna. We spent some time talking to Torey about sales. He shared that it was nice to be open, but business was light as people were still afraid to come out.

In the days that followed I reflected on how fear can sometimes paralyze us and keep us from enjoying life.

Today we are living in a unique time with the state of emergency still in place and a lot of uncertainty about the COVID pandemic. However, we ought not allow fear to rob us of our freedoms and rights to happiness. I define fear as being afraid of something that is unlikely to happen and if it did happen, it will not be as bad as I had imagined.

Of course, COVID poses a certain amount of risk, but then so does virtually all activities we currently participate in, from driving a car to the common flu. When we live in fear of the “what ifs,” we then risk eliminating a “what could be.” When we are confronted with something that creates fear, it is important for us to take time to learn the basis for that fear and the actual risks involved.

So what are our risks today? According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in 2017 cancer took 9,759 Minnesotans, heart disease took 8,428, death from a fall 1,200, and the common flu 435. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety statistics indicate in 2018, 27,877 people were injured and 381 people were killed in auto accidents. Now as to COVID, the latest figures indicate that in the first eight months of 2020 a total of 75,189 have been infected and 1,816 have died from COVID. Over the last few months, the projected annual death rate has fallen to just a little more than the death rate for falls. The CDC recently reported that only 6% of reported COVID deaths were strictly related to COVID, the remaining 94% had underlying contributing conditions.

What this tells me is that I am six times more likely to die of cancer or heart disease than I am of COVID and just as likely to die of a fall. For my age group, I have the same chance of dying in a car accident as from COVID. So why is there more fear of COVID than from these other risks? Could it be the newness of COVID? Maybe fear is just as contagious as COVID.

Let’s be clear, COVID does pose a great threat to certain sectors of our population, particularly the elderly, and we should be doing all we can to protect our most vulnerable from contracting the coronavirus.

That said, what I know of my fellow Minnesotans is that we are a hearty and resilient people. Not prone to jumping to conclusions or running from the unexpected. We are used to taking care of ourselves and are accountable for our actions. I have faith that we will get through this together. It will take supporting each other, hope in the future and an unending trust in God to turn this current struggle around.

I will be choosing not to cower in fear of the unknown. Instead I will take precautions when needed and I will continue to shop at local businesses and support our local industries. I am hoping everyone will join me.

Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, is the state representative for District 24A, which includes Owatonna and Waseca. He can be reached by phone at 651-296-5368 or by email at

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