Hospital leaders beg Minnesotans to follow health guidelines

Updated: November 19, 2020 08:25 PM
Created: November 19, 2020 08:07 PM

Hospital leaders from around Minnesota say they are "perilously close" to being overwhelmed. 

Several CEOs and doctors threw support behind Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 mitigation shutdowns that go into effect Friday night. 

"There's no surge of other providers available to take care. We need you. We need you to take care for us," Dr. Penny Wheeler, CEO of Allina Health, said. 

An emergency medicine physician, Dr. Carolyn McClain, recounted telling a 90-year-old man who had come in ill with shortness of breath that his COVID-19 test was positive.

"And when you do that to someone in their 90s, they know what that means," Dr. McClain said. "So he said to me ... 'Dr. McClain, I don't think I've been this scared since I fought in Korea.' And I thought, God, this guy has done so much for Minnesota and this country, what can I do for him? And that's why I'm here today. He is now a statistic. A death statistic."

She said she worked in Haiti after the earthquake, but these last few weeks have been the toughest of her career. 

Dr. Cindy Firkins Smith, co-CEO of Carris Health in central Minnesota, said in her system, 10% or 1,200 staff members are out sick with COVID, on quarantine or caring for someone else who is ill. And those who can work are disheartened by what they see outside the hospital. 

"It's heartbreaking for healthcare workers to finish an exhausting workday, only to stop at the grocery store and see people not wearing a mask. Don't call health workers heroes if you can't put a piece of cloth or paper over your face to protect them," Firkins Smith said. 

Health workers say Walz's new restrictions are too late but that now is the next best time to start, especially with Thanksgiving just a week away. 

Firkins Smith said she knows it's hard to call off plans with loved ones. 

"The people working in the hospital not only don't get to celebrate Thanksgiving with the people they love, they're going to be watching people die that day. And they don't want to watch you die at Christmas," she said. 

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