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MN company making needed tools in fight against COVID-19

Nonin Medical, a Plymouth-based med-tech company, has seen a ten-fold increase in demand for its mobile pulse oximeters in the last few months

As the fight against the coronavirus pandemic has crushed business worldwide, one Twin Cities business is struggling to keep up with demand as its technology is one of the most needed tools in the fight against COVID-19.

Nonin Medical (short for noninvasive), a Plymouth-based med-tech company, has seen a ten-fold increase in demand for its mobile pulse oximeters in the last few months, according to the company’s CEO Dave Hemink.

“I don't think anybody could have predicted what we are seeing today,” said Hemink. “We’ve been fighting this from day one, and the increase of demand for pulse oximetry products globally has been unprecedented.”

COVID-19 attacks the lungs and the body's response limits lung function. Ultimately, the disease can lower oxygen levels in the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Pulse oximeters, which measure the oxygen saturation in blood using light, are now a major frontline weapon in the most basic toolkit to diagnose and fight COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

“We continue to get the energy in hearing the stories of how our technology is helping,” said Hemink.

Just ask Bravo host Andy Cohen, who diagnosed with COVID-19.

"My doctors advised me early on to get a pulse oximeter," said Cohen on The Howard Stern Show. "I was sticking my finger in this thing all day just to make sure it was OK, and that is what kept me calm."

In 1986, Minnesota physicist Phillip Isaacson founded Nonin with three engineers working in his basement. He envisioning a more portable, affordable way to check a patient's oxygen level.

That invention evolved into the world's first fingertip pulse oximeter, according to Nonin, a device found in any hospital or clinic.

Unfortunately, while demand accelerated since January, the company had to battle through its own coronavirus case. One of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota was an employee at Nonin, according to Hemink.

“We very thankfully are pleased to say that no other employee to date has been tested positive, and the individual that tested positive is healthy and back to work,” said Hemink.

Now the company is trying to fast-track a new device through FDA approval to give emergency workers worldwide a more advanced tool to monitor patients.

RELATED: Live updates: With MN up to 17 COVID-19 deaths, Walz urges 'Stay at Home' compliance

RELATED: CDC discusses whether general public should be required to wear masks

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

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.


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