• President-elect Joe Biden teared up when talking to an ICU nurse about her experience treating COVID-19 patients. 
  • “You got me emotional,” Biden said on a video call with frontline workers. “Anyone who spent significant time in ICU, like I did for months, … observed the incredible mental strain on nurses in ICU units.” 
  • Biden’s son, Beau, spent time in the ICU during his treatment for brain cancer.
  • As coronavirus cases surge in the US, nurses say hospitals lack staff and resources to adequately handle the rise in hospitalizations.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden became emotional and appeared to tear up when talking to a nurse about the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on healthcare workers.

Biden met virtually with four frontline workers: a firefighter, a homecare worker, an ICU nurse, and a teacher on Wednesday to discuss their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mary Turner, the president of the Minnesota chapter of National Nurses United, tearfully talked about treating COVID-19 in her hospital’s ICU since February. Turner said nurses at her hospital were still reusing N95 masks due to a lack of protective equipment. 

“I myself have held the hand of dying patients crying out for their families that they can’t see,” Turner said through tears.

Biden became visibly emotional hearing Turner speak, and appeared to wipe tears away when responding to her. He said as vice president he used to bring dinner to ICU nurses working the night shift at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Biden’s son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. Beau spent his last 10 days at Walter Reed Medical Center

“You got me emotional,” Biden said. “Anyone who spent significant time in ICU, like I did for months, … observed the incredible mental strain on nurses in ICU units.” 

As coronavirus cases surge in the US, nurses and other healthcare workers say hospitals are understaffed and lack resources to handle the rise in hospitalizations. 800 nurses went on strike this week in Pennsylvania to pressure hospitals into increasing staff. In a nationwide survey of 15,000 nurses, 42% of them said staffing has gotten “slightly or much worse recently.”

During the call, Turner talked about difficulties nurses faced since March, like the nationwide mask shortage, a lack of time off for nurses who get infected, and limited testing. Nurses across the country have told Business Insider their hospital employers have not provided hazard pay, time off for testing, or adequate protective equipment.

Turner said she had not been tested for COVID-19 all year due to limited testing for healthcare workers.

In May, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which provides frontline workers like nurses a $25,000 raise through the end of 2020. The Senate did not pass the legislation.

“It’s not enough to praise you,” Biden told Turner. “We have to protect you. We have to pay you. You deserve leadership that listens to you.”

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Watch Biden’s entire interview with frontline workers on YouTube:

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