By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As his most recent shift wrapped at Hennepin Healthcare downtown, physician and State Senator Matt Klein snapped a selfie in scrubs and face mask, then shared on Facebook the struggles he and other health care workers face as they battle the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The staff are both upbeat a grim the shortages are real. Face masks require some searching but I found one, which I carried with me all night. I was unable to find any eye shields, and a nurse advised me to buy some safety goggles and bring them in,” he mentioned in the post.

Any semblance of humor is tough to find in the halls of the hospital, he said. Staff are too focused on the seriousness of the situation.

“It’s important to remember that you do take a duty, you take an oath to this job regardless of the risks to care for people, regardless of hazards,” Sen. Klein said.

The main concern he and many other health care professionals keep emphasizing is the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), which during the outbreak means gowns, N-95 face masks, gloves and eye protection. The Minnesota Nurses Association started a donation drive outside its headquarters in St. Paul to collect PPE equipment.

Sen. Klein said it will be his top priority when he heads back to the state capitol Thursday.

“If we get to a point where healthcare workers really cannot go into a room without the correct protective equipment, I think that’s gonna sow a lot of distrust and job abandonment and chaos within our healthcare system,” he said.

Another priority of his as a lawmaker will be expanding testing capacity, he said. The good news on COVID-19 testing statewide is that the Mayo Clinic’s lab can now process 4,000 tests per day, eliminating the state’s backlog. A Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson said the state lab’s testing turnaround is now at 24 hours or less.

Hospitals like Hennepin Healthcare are also getting the equipment necessary to build their own test processing labs.

“We’ve been assured that by the end of this week, at least at my hospital, we’ll be able to do in house testing and have a turnaround time of about two hours which will really transform our work here,” Sen. Klein said.

By getting results back quickly, Sen. Klein said that will help them better identify who needs hospitalization or to simply self-quarantine at home. He said it will also help them identify hot spots of the outbreak down to specific towns or communities.

His final priority when he returns to the capitol will be to lobby for emergency interventions for people suddenly out of work, unsure how long they might go without a paycheck.

“These long days sitting at home, however you’re filling them, you’re doing the right thing to make sure more people don’t get sick so that our hospital doesn’t overflow,” he said.

Between the legislature and the hospital, he’s spending his time at home with his family in isolation. He said quarantining is imperative to stopping the outbreak and is thankful to those who are following suit.

Jeff Wagner