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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We continuously hear about the shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for Minnesota health care workers, including a lack of masks, face shields and gloves.

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Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner got emotional Thursday morning while testifying to legislators over a virtual Zoom joint Senate hearing.

“We head into the hospitals every day with what little PPE we have,” Turner said. “And that’s our armor. But you know something? We’re ready to do battle against this virus knowing that the patients and the public is why we became nurses.”

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Registered nurse Emily Allen is working at Bethesda Hospital’s COVID-19 Critical Care Unit in St Paul, and treating patients every day.

“There’s always that unknown. What if I bring it home? Or what if I contract it while I’m here?” Allen said.

She says the PPE shortage is real and dire.

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(credit: CBS)

“We have to use one mask or one shield the entire shift, which is not something that we’re accustomed to as nurses,” Allen said. “We are supposed to be using different ones between every patient. We’re using special wipes to wipe them down between every patient, but that just isn’t the same as having a new mask.”

Allen says they have not had to resort to using homemade masks yet, but are willing to if it reaches that point. She says they could use homemade masks like they’re using surgical masks right now.

“To kind of help preserve our N95 masks, what we’ve been doing is putting a surgical mask over the N95 masks to help kind of protect it,” Allen said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recommended this week that all residents wear homemade, cloth masks in public. Gov. Tim Walz says he will not be asking Minnesotans to the same. Instead, he wants all masks, even homemade ones, to go to healthcare workers.

The Minnesota Department of Health says over 700 healthcare workers in Minnesota have had direct contact with COVID-19 patients already.

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Marielle Mohs