The Minnesota Nurses Association began its protective-mask donation drive with a bang on Saturday.
Securian Financial in St. Paul donated 20,200 masks to help fill the “drastic” shortage health care workers say they face in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are all in the same place, and as a business, we take our responsibility of serving our neighbors really seriously,” said Nicole Hansen, manager of community relations for Securian Financial Foundation. “We are not here to live in isolation; we are here to help each other. Think about the health care workers and what they are doing for all of us.”
The Nurses Association is calling for certified N95 protective masks to be dropped off through March 29 at its offices at 345 Randolph Ave., Suite 200 in St. Paul. Securian was joined by smaller construction companies and others donating Saturday.
“It’s been like the drive-thru at Starbucks here,” said Rick Fuentes of the MNA. “People have been driving into our parking lot and in a long line. We have nurses accepting them from a safe distance and thanking people in person. We’ve been telling them how much we appreciate them. It’s really been a moving experience.”
The donations will be given to the State Emergency Operations Center and then distributed to area hospitals. The drive came after MNA president Mary Turner said the organization received numerous calls and emails asking about potential donations.
The masks mean a nurse “will be less afraid to go home to their families at night,” Turner said in a statement. “ Re-using masks is potentially dangerous for both nurses and patients. And if we can’t keep nurses safe, we won’t have nurses to care for patients.”
Fuentes said the MNA had not yet heard from some of the state’s larger construction companies about potential donations. Those businesses have more resources to put a bigger dent in the demand.
The lack of protective masks has been a growing concern for health-care workers across the U.S. for weeks, and it again was a subject in Saturday’s news briefing at the White House.
Vice President Mike Pence said Heath and Human Services will be filing an order of 500 million N95 masks. “We are responding specifically to state requests where the needs arise,” he said.
3M said Friday it will double its global output of N95 masks to an annual rate of 1.1 billion, which is nearly 100 million per month. The Maplewood-based company is also adding production of hand sanitizers, disinfectants and filtration solutions during the pandemic.