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Medical professionals plead for continued support, social distancing

An ICU Nurse and a Mayo research leader spent Friday asking Minnesotans to keep helping them by staying home.

As the debate grows over when and how to begin re-opening Minnesota to business, voices from within the medical community spoke up on Friday. The goal? Help Minnesotans understand why their efforts to socially distance are still critical.

During the 2pm daily news conference with the Minnesota Department of Health and Governor Tim Walz, an ICU Nurse spoke directly to those who have been following orders and staying home.

"I want to thank, you the people, for giving us every day every hour and every minute to help us prepare," said Mary Turner, who works at North Memorial in Robinsdale and is President of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Turner says although Minnesota has started to flatten the curve, she says there is still a steady rise in cases under the current order.

"We have a full floor of patients that are on ventilators, and they're on these ventilators for several weeks. Just when we think that they're going to get better and we take their tube out, we have to put it back in," Turner said. "I don't know how many calls I've had in the middle of the night, from family begging to see their family members. They're asking us, 'Can you please just put the phone up to their ear so we can tell them we love them?'"

Turner says a second ICU unit at North Memorial is now beginning to fill up, and she's afraid cases will quickly snowball, especially if Minnesotans rush back to life without distancing.

"I get that we want to economically get back to business," Turner said. "But this is serious and the way we're doing it... it's going to help us get through this."

Clincal researchers are pleading for caution too because their understanding of transmission continues to grow more troubling. According to the CDC, the average incubation period for the coronavirus is about five days, but new research published in Nature this week suggests that patients could be most infectious a day or two before they have any symptoms.

"We are saying that everybody should social distance because if they are in that infected, but asymptomatic stage, they can limit their likelihood of spreading the disease," said Dr. Andrew Badley, director of the Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 research task force. 

Though Dr. Badley is also asking for more time, he says it's not being wasted. He says a rapid expansion of testing statewide should soon help the state to achieve the Governor's goal of re-opening in phases.

Badley also says doctors at the Mayo are encouraged by six different treatment trials, which are already underway.

"As one of those physicians who is involved in those treatment recommendations, I think there is reason for optimism," Dr. Badley said. "Within weeks to a month or two, we will see scientifically generated evidence that some of the treatments are beneficial for patients of COVID disease. So I think there is plenty of reason for optimism."

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.