Joe Biden wiped away tears after speaking to an ICU nurse about her last nine months treating COVID-19 patients as she revealed that the staff in her hospital still don’t have enough PPE and that she has never been able to receive a coronavirus test.
The President-elect was holding a virtual meeting with frontline workers from a theater in Delaware on Wednesday, which he used as an opportunity to take aim at the Trump administration for their failure to respond to nurses’ calls for help.
However, Biden, who said he spent ‘significant’ time in ICU units as his late son Beau battled brain cancer, was moved as he listened to the plight of Mary Turner, the president of the Minnesota chapter of National Nurses United.
‘You got me emotional,’ he told her.
Turner had tearfully spoken of the anxiety of nurses as coronavirus cases across the country soar and hospital systems begin to become overwhelmed.
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President-elect Joe Biden participated in a Virtual Roundtable with Frontline Health Care Workers from Delaware on Wednesday where he became emotional speaking to an ICU nurse
Biden spent months visiting his late son in ICU units as he battled brain cancer before Beau’s death in 2015. The president elect and Beau are pictured here together in 2008
Biden wiped away tears as he heard Mary Turner, the president of the Minnesota chapter of National Nurses United, speak about her experience of treating coronavirus patients
‘Right now, COVID-19 infections are surging across Minnesota and the country. Our hospitals, I tell you, are overflowing with COVID patients and we aren’t prepared. We don’t have the necessary resources to keep patients and our workers safe,’ said Turner.
‘Nurses, I’m telling you, are feeling extremely anxious right now.’
She told Biden on the conference call that they were seeing a ‘rapid decline in hospital beds’ and spoke to the mental toll the pandemic had already taken on staff.
‘The physical impacts of this virus have been devastating. I myself have held the hands of dying patients, crying out for their family that they can’t see,’ Turner said, also through tears
‘I’ve taken care of co-workers as they fight for their lives on a ventilator and knowing they got sick because the hospital or their government hasn’t protected them.
‘There is something seriously wrong when nurses have to take to the streets to beg for protection in the middle of a pandemic,’ she added.
‘We’re not being given the protection that we need. We need to have optimal PPE for all staff to prevent airborne and droplet transmissions. We need testing of our workers and patients, and contact tracing and notification of exposure for healthcare workers.’
‘You’re kidding me,’ Biden replied in disbelief when he heard that Turner had never been able to take a coronavirus test despite her work on the front lines.
She issued a stark warning to him that action is needed now to help those caring for coronavirus patients over the winter months.
‘We know that we are facing immense death and suffering in the coming weeks,’ she said, ‘and we will be there. But we need to act now, we need to act quickly to protect our healthcare workers so that we can save as many lives as possible.’
As she ended her, Turner told Biden ‘I’m sorry I’m so emotional’ as the former Vice President wiped his own eyes.
‘No, you got me emotional,’ he responded.
Biden was joined by Turner, a firefighter, a teacher and a homecare worker on the call
Biden also used the call to hit out at Trump and complain about the delay in the transition
‘Anyone who spent significant time in ICU, like I did for months, … observed the incredible mental strain on nurses in ICU units,’ he added, referencing the time he had spent in in the ICU with his son.
He added that while he was Vice President, he would visit the staff on night shift at Walter Reed Medical Center to bring them dinner and talk.
Beau Biden spent the last ten days of his life in the medical center before his died in 2015.
‘One of the things that one of my neurosurgeons said to me was you only see people walk out of the ICU. Either they’re walking out and they don’t ever want to come back because they don’t want the memory or they’re being carried out and they can’t come back,’ continued Biden, who turned 78 on Friday.
‘The psychic enumeration for you guys is missing. You don’t see the people you save come back so I’m sorry for needing to get personal about it … but thank you, thank you for what you do and all your colleagues, male and female.’
Turner revealed that nurses in Minnesota are still coming to her with fears and concerns about the lack of PPE. Pictured, a nurse in Minnesota protests the lack of masks and scrubs
Biden met with four frontline workers in total on Wednesday during a nearly hour-long discussion including Turner, a firefighter, a homecare worker, and a teacher, as they discussed their experiences during the pandemic.
‘It’s not enough to praise you. We have to protect you, we have to pay you,’ Biden told the group.
He then used the call as an opportunity to take a swipe at Trump for both his response to the pandemic and failure to recognize Biden as the winner of the election.
‘One of the problems that we’re having now is the failure of the administration to recognize — the law says that the General Services Administration has a person who recognizes who the winner is,’ Biden said, adding, ‘which, unless it’s made available soon, we’re gonna be behind by weeks or months being able to put together the whole initiative.’
He added that he hoped that when he takes office Republicans will be able to work toward a compromise on further financial aid for those struggling due to the pandemic without fear of retribution from Trump.
‘The Congress has already passed that money, it’s sitting there. It’s available right now,’ Biden said.
‘But we’re unwilling, some of our friends on the Senate side are unwilling to spend the money.’
‘It’s not a responsible position. And I’m hoping that the reason why my friends on the other side have not stepped up to do something is because of their fear of retribution from the president, and hopefully when he’s gone, they’ll be more willing to do what they know, should be done.’
The President-elect reiterated his comments on Twitter after the call, sharing a picture of himself talking to the frontline workers and claiming they ‘deserve leaders who will listen and work as hard for them as they are for their communities’.
‘As president, that’s exactly what I’ll do,’ he wrote.
Turner spoke to CNN later Wednesday about her conversation with Biden stating that ‘today for the first time … I had hope.’
‘There has been such despair,’ she told Erin Burnett.
‘Despair at the fact that we haven’t had enough PPE, despair for the fact that we’re not being tested, despite over the fact that all of our hospital systems in Minnesota and probably across the United States are working to haphazardly.
‘More importantly to me, despair over the fact that the federal government has not been there.
Biden also praised the frontline workers on Twitter after the conference call
Joe Biden became emotional after listening to an ICU nurse talk about treating Covid-19 patients.
¿For the first time, speaking with President-elect Biden, I had hoped, and with that came such an emotional release,¿ says Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association pic.twitter.com/esLip054Et
— CNN (@CNN) November 19, 2020
‘What happened to me today for the first time speaking to president elect Biden, I had hope, and with that came such an emotional release because I finally felt that somebody was actually listening,’ she added.
‘I’ve been on our local radio for the last nine months, pounding the pavement, trying to get anyone to listen and today I felt that somebody who could really do something about it was listening to me and I was so grateful.’
Biden is currently grappling to get up to speed on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic as he prepares to take office in January.
However, as Trump continues to fight the election result, Biden has warned that the delay in beginning the transition process could slow down his ‘war on COVID’ as he cautioned of a ‘dark winter’ ahead if urgent action is not taken to try to cut down the spiking cases.
More than 252,000 Americans have died from coronavirus with over 11.7million cases nationally.