ST. PAUL — After President Donald Trump this week downplayed the coronavirus after being hospitalized and receiving experimental treatments for the illness, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, Oct. 7, called on doctors, Minnesotans who’d survived COVID-19 and family of those who have died from the illness to help put a human face on the disease’s toll.
The move comes two days after Trump departed Walter Reed National Hospital following three days of treatment for the illness and after the president on Twitter posted that he was “feeling great” and said Americans shouldn’t be afraid of the disease.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday reported that 14 more Minnesotans had died from the illness, bringing the total since COVID-19 took hold in the state to 2,101. And 918 more tested positive for the disease.
And while the state frequently uses data to assess the spread of COVID-19, Walz and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Minnesotans need to see each of those new cases or deaths as a fellow person.
“When we talk in numbers and statistics and percentages and community spread as a percentage and infection rates per 100,000, those are important things to know and they’re important in how we make decisions but they also take away that we’re talking about in individual in every single situation, we’re talking about a family member in every situation,” Walz said. “We really want folks that have not been touched by this yet to understand what happens.”
Kathryn Hall’s mother, Norma, died of the illness earlier this year after she became sickened in her long-term care facility. Hall said she struggled with not being able to see her mother in person after the state limited visits to residents in long-term care facilities. And while she took comfort in virtual conversations with her mother, it was taxing to be away from her mother and see the illness taking its toll.
“In March, we went into lockdown and, suddenly, I watched the decline as far as the disconnect for her and just the disappearance of her,” Hall said. “You just watch the disappearance happening.”
Minnesota pianist Nachito Herrera said his family took him to the hospital in March after he was disoriented in his home. Upon arrival at St. John’s Hospital, his condition worsened, requiring artificial blood processing and bypass surgeries. It was there that Herrera went into a coma for 12 days.
“This huge, invisible enemy was trying to kill me, trying to kill my body,” Herrera said.
Herrera urged Minnesotans to follow social distancing and masking guidelines to help prevent others from becoming sickened with COVID-19, saying the “only way to win the battle is by working together.”
Walz on Wednesday used the public conversation to again ask Minnesotans to take seriously state rules aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus and he said he would again seek to expand the state’s peacetime emergency to deal with the pandemic.