10 stories about the escalating COVID-19 crisis in Minnesota

These stories are written by the people on the front lines.
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The weeks ahead are undoubtedly going to be extremely difficult for healthcare workers in Minnesota as the rapidly escalating COVID-19 crisis tightens its grip and applies significant pressure on hospitals all over the state. 

Minnesota has seen the number of people with COVID-19 hospitalized rise from 580 Oct. 24 to 1,429 through Nov. 12, and with 5,000 to 8,000 cases being reported daily over the past week, hospitals are undoubtedly going to see a flood of new COVID-19 patients in the weeks to come. 

There are pandemic naysayers, but the words of healthcare workers on the front lines and people who are experiencing it first or second hand are undeniable. 

We'll let them tell the stories... 

@KellWardell on Twitter – Minnesota ICU nurse

"It feels important for people to know that the death toll numbers aren’t people who got their positive test or symptoms within the last week. They are people who’ve slowly and painstakingly been treated for weeks with the best their nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists had in them," she tweeted Nov. 13.

"They’ve been bathed, had their teeth brushed, and been turned to optimize oxygenation and prevent pressure sores. They’ve had lines and tubes inserted in all the places in the name of life, and yes, comfort.

"As their body was slowly vanquished by the virus, family cried for them from afar. Their nurses held up screens so loved ones could say goodbye, and have a chance to see how hard everyone fought for a different outcome. We are fighting so hard."

Andy Cochrane – CEO at Maple Grove Hospital

"The amount of work, the amount of stress and the impact on hospital and healthcare teams is far greater today than it was in May and June. When I hear people question the severity of our current situation in hospitals, I admit that I get angry. When I read comments wondering 'what’s the big deal?' and 'there’s a 99.6% survival rate,' I want to walk those people through our ERs and our nursing units," Cochrane wrote in a Facebook post Friday. 

"The unwillingness of people in our communities to change their ways and do simple things that we know helps the situation is incredibly disheartening. We’ve been planning for months but what we didn’t plan for and what we couldn’t have anticipated was the general lack of care and concern for each other we see today.

"More than anything, I am frustrated for our teams – the professionals who months ago were hailed as heroes and today are yelled at for not being prepared or for taking too long to provide a service. It’s not fair and it’s not right. I work alongside of some of the most remarkable and committed people I could imagine.

"Remember how you used to hear that 'we’re all in this together?' I can tell you that the same health care heroes that were applauded months ago are still doing amazing work and providing exceptional care every day. But they're hitting their breaking point friends. They need and deserve your support to impact a change because it doesn’t feel like we’re all in this together anymore. We have to be better than this."

Kristi White, PHD – Hennepin Healthcare 

"The only thing more heartbreaking than this is how much worse it’s going to get over the next couple of months. For those who survive, the physical and mental health toll can be long-lasting," she tweeted, referencing a graph showing the high death toll COVID-19 has had on Black and Indigenous Americans. 

Anne Keenan, MD – U of M St. John’s Family Medicine Residency

In a tweet directed at Gov. Tim Walz she wrote: "the front lines are drowning. We need to do more than close bars early."

Dr. Deb Peterson – Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield

"This has been my weekend. Many Covid patients in our rural hospital. The staff are doing an amazing job!! It’s difficult to go from room to room, watching struggles for breath, fits of coughing, and extreme weakness. Some Covid 19 positive patients know where they picked up the virus but many don’t because it has become so prevalent in Litchfield and surrounding communities," wrote Peterson in a Sunday Facebook post

"Please know also that if any of my Covid positive patients worsen, it is unlikely that I will be able to transfer them to a higher level of care. There are few to no beds. Those of us providing medical care have stepped up and are providing the best care we can for these precious people. 

"I am asking all of you to step up as well... wear your masks, wash your hands, practice social distancing, stay home if you are ill or a family member is ill, get tested if you have ANY symptoms. 

"Finally, please please think twice before planning or attending any family gatherings for Thanksgiving ( and probably Christmas too). Please choose wisely... many lives, including possibly your own, depend on it. Oh... and if you are inclined, please pray for all those impacted by Covid 19- patients and their families as well as all of us providing care.

Mary Turner – ICU nurse, President of MN Nurse's Association

“At North Memorial, we have three ICU’s full of COVID, we have three med/surgical floors full of COVID,” said Turner in an interview with CCX Media last week. “I think at one point last week, and they actually used the last physical bed that they had to dig out of the storeroom.

@hanson2131 on Twitter – Minnesota ER nurse

"I'm an ER nurse in MN and overall cases, along with higher acuity patients spiked hard about 2 weeks ago. ICU's are understaffed. No beds. A large amount of these patients stay in the ER for hours on end waiting for admission increasing wait times. Feeling scorched," he tweeted Nov. 11

Dr. John Pryor, president of Essentia Health's East Market (Duluth)

"COVID-19 has never been this pervasive in the Northland – cases, hospitalizations, including ICU admits, death rates and positivity rates are at all-time highs," Pryor said during the City of Duluth's COVID-19 update on Thursday. "This virus is spreading rapidly and if we don't act decisively, it threatens to spiral out of control."

Pryor and Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen, the vice president of medical affairs at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth, are pleading with community members to take COVID-19 seriously as to not overwhelm the health care system.

"We are at a pivotal moment in this pandemic. Health care resources are stretched dangerously thin just as demand for care is spiking," Pryor said. "Our ability to staff medical and ICU beds is being tested. If the current trajectory of transmission holds, our communities will be at risk."

Joint statement from Minnesota Hospitals Association

In a statement issued Nov. 12, numerous doctors and medical professionals expressed concern as "demand for hospital care is increasing in both medical-surgical and intensive care units, and the percentage of beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 is growing."

The statement was released in an effort to convince Minnesotans to do everything possible to cut down on community spread, meaning social distancing, wearing a mask and frequently washing hands. 

"The high level of community transmission means that our health care heroes – including nurses, doctors, therapists, pharmacists, support services, housekeeping, technicians, advanced practice providers and many more – are contracting COVID-19 as they go about their daily lives in our communities. Reducing and preventing community spread is critical to helping keep our health care heroes healthy and able to care for patients."

Jen Nelson – Sister hospitalized with COVID-19

"My sister (30s) is currently hospitalized in the Twin Cities due to COVID complications. In spite of serious cardiac and respiratory complications, it took them over 3 hours to find a bed to admit her. As she went though a battery of tests today, the respiratory therapist told her that their ICU is full and contains 7 young people who are there on ventilators due to COVID," Nelson wrote in a Twitter thread Nov. 12.

"The hardest part to swallow is that she was exposed because of her husband’s workplace. Once masks were politicized many of his coworkers refused to wear them consistently. In addition, spread was quickened by our state’s lack of sufficient and comprehensive paid leave policies. Co-workers who weren’t feeling well still came to work because they were too concerned about losing income.

"My sister did nearly everything right, but she is hospitalized and suffering because others felt it was their right to take as much personal risk as they wanted without full regard to the fact that it also put others at risk.

"What many consider personal freedom often ends up being communal risk. If you don't recognize that simple fact and spent months casting doubt on simple preventative measures, you are NOT taking this seriously.

"This surge wasn’t unavoidable. Never forget that it didn’t have to be like this. And now let's do everything we can to make sure it doesn't continue to be like this moving forward. Mask up and stay home Minnesota. 

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