President-elect Joe Biden became emotional, wiping tears from his eyes Wednesday as he listened to the raw, dark reality of what it's like to work in a Minnesota hospital right now.
Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, joined a virtual conference with other frontline workers to explain to Biden what's happening around the nation as COVID-19 surges into the winter months. Turner, who works the night shift as an ICU nurse at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, also became emotional.
"Right now, COVID-19 infections are surging across Minnesota and the country. Our hospitals, I tell you, are overflowing with COVID patients and we aren't prepared. We don't have the necessary resources to keep patients and our workers safe," said Turner.
"Nurses, I'm telling you, are feeling extremely anxious right now."
Turner said there remain concerns about supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) and a "rapid decline in hospital beds." But as stressful as it is wearing the same N-95 respirator mask shift after shift, Turner said the worst part of the job is seeing patients die from the disease.
"The physical impacts of this virus have been devastating. I myself have held the hands of dying patients, crying out for their family that they can't see. I've taken care of co-workers as they fight for their lives on a ventilator and knowing they got sick because the hospital or their government hasn't protected them," she said.
"There is something seriously wrong when nurses have to take to the streets to beg for protection in the middle of a pandemic," she added. "We're not being given the protection that we need. We need to have optimal PPE for all staff to prevent airborne and droplet transmissions. We need testing of our workers and patients, and contact tracing and notification of exposure for healthcare workers."
Turner said that despite working the only line of defense against the virus she has not yet been tested for COVID-19, to which Biden replied: "You're kidding me?"
Biden then became emotional, reaching down for a tissue to dry his eyes as Turner spoke about the frightening weeks to comes in Minnesota.
"We know that we are facing immense death and suffering in the coming weeks," she said, "and we will be there. But we need to act now, we need to act quickly to protect our healthcare workers so that we can save as many lives as possible."
"You got me emotional," said Biden, then telling a story about spending time himself in an ICU where he "observed the incredible mental strain on nurses."
Turner's words came on the same day that Minnesota reported a record 67 COVID-19 deaths, only to have that record likely broken again Thursday as Gov. Tim Walz said early Thursday morning that the state will report 76 more deaths and around 8,000 new cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus.