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Essential Workers On Frontlines Reflect On 1 Year Of COVID-19 Pandemic

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- One year ago -- on March 13, 2020 -- Gov. Tim Walz signed executive order 20-01 which declare a peacetime state of emergency in Minnesota, giving the governor the powers to be able to close down and restrict how are state operates in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

On the one-year mark, several essential and frontline workers gathered outside the Minnesota State Capitol to reflect back on the past year.

"What we've had to endure we will carry for the rest of our lives. It will be, 'Do you remember the year 2020?'" said Mary Tuner, an ICU nurse and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). "There's no doubt that this past year has probably been the worst time in history for frontline healthcare workers."

The year-mark of this peacetime emergency order nearly lands on same day Walz made significant rollbacks to reopen the state. On Friday, Walz gave one of his most uplifting announcements in the last year, telling Minnesotans we're close to overcoming this virus and getting a sense of normalcy back, but these essential workers said they're not celebrating quite yet.

"I'm in the middle. I'm celebrating my life, but also give silence to the people who pass away," said Elia Starkwether, a janitor and essential worker at the Ameriprise building downtown Minneapolis.

Starkwether's coworker, Lorenzo, died from COVID in August.

"My coworker is not only a coworker, I feel like we're family working in the same place every single day," said Starkwether.

Turner can relate. She has been so busy tending to other people in her ICU that she hasn't had the time to truly process the death of her father, who died from COVID back in March 2020. Despite the grief and exhaustion, she remains resilient.

"We would do it again because that's what we're called to do," said Turner.

In the last year, nearly 500,000 Minnesotans battled COVID-19, and nearly 7,000 Minnesotans lost their lives to this virus.

"I feel lucky to be here right now," said Starkwether.

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