MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some nurses say the state is woefully unprepared to deal with COVID-19. Representatives from hospitals across Minnesota gathered today to share their experiences, express their worry and demand a better plan.

Every day the nurses say they go to work exposing themselves to risk.

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“The tension in the hospital and the fear is heavy,” nurse Kelly Anaas at Abbott Northwestern said.

They’re on the front line of this pandemic, says the Minnesota Hospital Association president.

“Now we have a new threat, and it’s the nurses and the healthcare workers that are marching into battle,” Mary Turner said.

The representatives say they’ll continue to answer the call, while unprotected.  A survey of about 1,000 union members showed more than 50 percent believe their facility is somewhat unprepared or unprepared to respond to COVID-19.

They say they need better patient isolation areas, more education, increased communication and proper personal protection equipment, like the N95 mask that’s in short supply. Instead many say they’re forced to wear a less protective, surgical mask

“In the event a patient would be positive for COVID we’re not protected,” Randy Peterson at Fairview Southdale said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 13 health care workers tested positive for the virus in Minnesota but the health department reports the cases are travel related. The nurses believe it will get worse.

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“There are no processes in place to deal with employee exposure,” another nurse said.

They’re making bold suggestions.

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“We are not addressing this fast enough. We need to be opening major public facilities like the Xcel Energy Center and the U.S. Bank Stadium to become ancillary hospitals,” Cliff Wellming, R.N at United Hospital, said.

And they want a seat at the table.

“We need answers on what to do and how to deal with these patients and we need to pull together as a community,” Emily Allen, R.N. at St. Joseph’s, said.

They’re asking for a meeting with the Minnesota Hospital Association in the next five days.

The Minnesota Department of Health said it’s working with the health care system to ensure those on the front lines have what they need to protect themselves.

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“Minnesota hospitals and health systems share concerns about the shortage of supplies and personal protective equipment. The safety and health of our frontline care team members is critical in our ability to be able to care for patients. We are working with our staffs to respond to the CDC and Health Department guidelines about how to conserve these needed supplies while at the same time protecting our health care workers. Both MHA and the MNA are on the Commissioner of Health’s COVID Advisory Council, and they met this morning where this topic was discussed. It is important that all Minnesotans help us conserve our supplies by staying home to stop the spread,” president and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, Dr. Rahul Koranne said in a statement.