Minnesota Gov. Tim Falls used his COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday to highlight the stories of four residents who have been affected byHe told reporters that he did not want to “lose the humanity in the middle of this.” The briefing comes days after the new restrictions imposed by the state took effect, as Walz and other local leaders are urging residents to stay home during the holiday season as the number of cases rises.
Walz’s new restrictions, which target social gatherings among young people, went into effect Friday. Indoor and outdoor private social gatherings are now restricted to no more than 10 people from a maximum of three families, and bars and restaurants are limited to 50% of the capacity indoors and outdoors with a maximum of 150 people.
The first speaker was former country representative Nick Zerwas, who is currently recovering from COVID-19. Zerwas said he went to the hospital after “barely able to stand” after going down the stairs, and then spent five days in the intensive care unit. “I was overwhelmed and sick with this virus,” he said. “It happened very quickly and progressed very quickly.”
Zirwas said he was able to leave the ICU after treatment with convalescent plasma, remdesivir, and steroids. As someone born with a congenital heart defect, he said he considers himself very lucky.
When asked by a reporter about his previous criticisms of the closures in early summer, Zerwas, a Republican, said the state was facing a radically different situation in November due to the increased community spread.
“Everything has changed. The virus is here. If we do not act now, God is helping us,” he said, adding, “We are pushing our system to the brink of the abyss. If we do not respond now, I fear that will happen. It is too late.”
The second speaker was the mother of a 17-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with the virus. Sarah Winston said her daughter had a high temperature of 104.5, as well as heart failure, kidney failure and liver disorder in the intensive care unit. Her daughter eventually recovered, but Winston said there was a time when both were not sure if she would survive the virus.
She was followed by Dr. John Cole, an emergency physician at Hennepin County Medical Center who was diagnosed with the virus, along with his wife and four children. He said that no family member was admitted to the hospital, but described the two weeks in which the family had symptoms as a “terrible experience.”
Cole also spoke about the pressure he’s seen on the state hospital system as COVID-19 cases rise. He said that “a large number of nurses and doctors” are calling because they need to be quarantined or have tested positive for the virus. “It is not just a matter of a shortage of beds, ventilators or equipment – we may be heading towards a shortage of healthcare providers,” Cole warned.
The last speaker was Governor Lieutenant Peggy Flanagan, whose brother died in March after being diagnosed with cancer and COVID-19. Flanagan said she saw “remarkable cruelty” towards families like her who lived with loved ones with other conditions who died from the virus. “They still have lives left, and Covid stole from them and their families for years,” Flanagan said.
“There are empty seats on the table that will not be filled again, and we have to take this seriously,” she added. “Please do everything you can to keep your tables full next year.