The CEO of Allina Health offered to get on her knees and beg.
An ER doc said she was carrying a message for one of her patients, a Korean War veteran who died of COVID-19.
The leader of a rural Minnesota health network said to “please don’t, just this year, please don’t” celebrate Thanksgiving with people outside your household.
And, they all said, if you must go somewhere where there are people, mask up.
A day after Gov. Tim Walz announced a new wave of restrictions in the face of an uncontrolled wildfire of coronavirus cases, leaders of Minnesota’s medical community sent a unified message to Minnesotans Thursday to heed the restrictions to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed, resulting in substandard care and potential deaths, not just for COVID patients, but for many needing medical care.
Their goal, and Walz’s goal, was to have trusted apolitical experts — doctors, nurses and health care CEOs — clarify that, regardless of the inconvenience, hardship, pain, or loneliness the restrictions carry, they’re a necessity right now.
“They’re not here to support my position,” Walz said at the news conference on the grounds of the state Capitol. “I’m doing this to support theirs.”
Indeed, the calls for the new wave of restrictions always emanated from the health sector, from career civil servants in the Minnesota Department of Health to leaders of the Mayo Clinic, where more than 900 medical workers are unable to work because of the current spread of the virus. More than 1,000 physicians signed a letter released Wednesday saying they were being “pushed to the brink.”
It’s not about supplies or beds, but staff, doctors say. Too many doctors and nurses right now are sidelined because of COVID. They’re either sick, caring for a sick loved one, forced to quarantine from an exposure to a sick person, or forced to be at home to care for a child whose school is closed.
In the vast majority of cases, they’re not getting exposed at work, but outside of work, either in the community or at home from a family member who has contracted it. For example, of those 900 Mayo workers who have contracted the virus in the past two weeks, 93 percent contracted it outside of work, according to Mayo, which early on pioneered a sophisticated contact tracing system to try to suppress outbreaks.
While unprecedented in America in the modern age, such a strain on hospitals from sick and out-of-work staff is a well-known risk. For decades, pandemic preparedness plans have envisioned this precise scenario. It’s just that America had been able to mostly avoid it — until now.
Quick refresher: Just a few weeks ago, things weren’t so dire in Minnesota, although the virus was spreading at fastest-in-the-world growth in the Dakotas. Cases soon started to skyrocket here. Last week, Walz ordered bars and restaurants to close early and limited social gatherings, but within a few days, health officials concluded that wouldn’t be enough. Cases grew at, literally, exponential rates, soon leading to record hospitalizations and deaths.
On Wednesday, Walz laid out new restrictions, which will close restaurants and bars to all but carry-out and delivery, cease all non-college and professional sports, and close gyms, museums, movie theaters and other entertainment venues. Additionally, no social gathering will be allowed for anyone outside your household — effectively quashing extended-family Thanksgiving plans.
The restrictions begin at 11:59 p.m. Friday and will last four weeks.
‘DOWN ON MY KNEES’
The medical professionals Thursday said they understood the restrictions are “awful” and “damaging” to the economy, livelihoods, families and individuals. They also expressed frustration at the pushback they’ve seen…