(Alexandria, MN) Dr. Deb Dittberner addressed a Facebook live audience at the feet of Big Ole recounting how she could remember the news in early January of the discovery of the new novel coronavirus in China. Since then she says it’s “been the quickest and longest four months in my career.” She remembers February 11th when the disease was officially named COVID-19. She talked about hearing the national news on February 29th as it explained the community spread of the virus in Washington State and how the alarm was sounded in Alexandria to prepare.

Three weeks later on March 19th Dr. Dittberner says they were made aware that we had a severe shortage of PPE, here in Alexandria. On that day she called her good friend Joni Jacobson and her pastor Hans Dahl and asked if they could organize to sew masks in Alexandria. She doesn’t remember saying this, but was told she had originally asked for 150 masks to be made by volunteers. With the addition of the Helping Hands of Alexandria volunteers, they have blown that original goal out of the water. Estimates have the group as making just shy of 20,000 masks, including one very large one for Big Ole.  Amy Allen says she spent a little over a week worrying about getting the mask size right, and only about an hour sewing it.  City Parks Director Bill Thoennes put the mask into place using a boom truck.

Here's Video of Thursday’s festivities, including a little bit that appeared online via the City of Alexandria’s Facebook Live.

Dr. Dittberner says as a doctor she is hopeful, but as a scientist she must remain objective and rely on the research and data. Science tells her that wearing a mask is source control. Wearing cloth masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who are carrying it silently. She adds that it is safe when worn for short periods of time and if changed frequently.

The event was Live on Facebook and on ALP Utilities Big Ole Webcam.  That gave hundreds of people the opportunity to see it happen.  Many of them were students within Alexandria Public Schools.  Superintendent Julie Critz explained through a story why the message of masking while in public is a good idea.

Helping Hands of Alexandria artists added some chalk art to the sidewalk in front of Big Ole.  To see Big Ole anytime of the day or night go to ALP Utilities Big Ole Webcam.