ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Governor Tim Walz says the pressure is on to get more equipment for health care workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis as the country faces a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
"If the peak would hit us now, we’d not be prepared," Gov. Walz said of PPE in Minnesota hospitals. "I’ve lit the fuse under everybody I can for us to start stocking up the best I can."
In Walz's daily coronavirus update he said health care workers have enough PPE for now, but the question remains if there will be enough next week.
"This is one of the leading problems that we articulated all along, especially when it comes to ventilators and especially when it comes to PPE on the frontline folks," he said.
Walz says he gives the federal government a "6 or 7" out of 10 in helping states get more personal protective equipment for health care workers.
He shared a story from a week and a half ago, when his team opened up a warehouse they expected to contain a fresh shipment of personal protective equipment and found "one tiny box with 650 gloves." But by two days later, the warehouse was filled, Walz said.
Walz says the state is continuing to "ramp up" acquisition of the needed supplies. Amid the shortage, Minnesotans have answered the call to donate face masks and other protective equipment. Other businesses in the area have shifted production to create items like face shields.
WALZ 'ENCOURAGED' BY TRUMP'S CHANGE IN TONE
Walz said he was on an hourlong call this morning with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Dr. Tony Fauci and other governors. He said it was "encouraging for us to hear" that Trump has backed away from the “unrealistic expectation” of reopening the economy by Easter.
"The federal government is getting better every day. Today was the most comforting call I’ve had. It was comforting to hear the president say he’s listening to Dr. Fauci," Walz said.
MINNESOTA IS NEARING A DECISION ON TRIAGE SITES
To address the shortage of hospital beds -- Minnesota has approximately 2,600 available -- state officials have visited five sites where they're considering building alternative health care facilities.
The state is looking to build alternative health care facilities with a total of 2,750 beds, 1,000 of which would be in the Twin Cities metro. These sites would house non-critical patients.
Of the five sites state teams visited, officials have confirmed three of them would be good options. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly would not reveal the three sites. Kelly did confirm that teams assessed the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, a long-shuttered private prison. He did not say whether the prison was among the finalists.