After emerging from a tour of Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 labs and research areas, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was asked by a television reporter what her biggest takeaway was.
Her reply: Mayo is open for business.
"I think that the most interesting thing I learned is that Mayo is at 90 percent open," Klobuchar said. "I didn't know the progress they had made in putting safety measures in place where they are seeing so many patients and doing so many surgeries."
Klobuchar and Dr. Andrew Badley, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist, spoke just outside the protective reach of the Gonda Bulding awning as rain fell. It was Klobuchar's first Rochester appearance since withdrawing from consideration to be Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate last week.
Both Klobuchar and Badley focused on the strides Mayo has made in understanding the virus, as well the drug discoveries, therapies and testing capacity created to battle it.
"We've learned so much about the horror of this virus and this pandemic that we're now in a better place," Klobuchar said.
Both also urged people not to put off regular vaccinations and flu shots. Klobuchar noted that measles vaccinations are down 70 percent over last year, and a person sick with one infection is more susceptible to another, Badley said.
"COVID is not going away any time soon, and we all have to take care of our health," Badley said.
Klobuchar has personal knowledge of the virus. Her husband, John Bessler, was seriously sick with COVID-19 and has donated plasma twice since his recovery. Her father is currently ill with it.
"He's hanging in there at 92," she said.
As the virus has surged in states like Texas, which is closing its bars, and Florida, which reported 8,900 new daily cases, Minnesota's COVID-19 caseload has stabilized.
"Right now, states across the country that are seeing those increases are changing some of their tunes in terms of their plans," she said. "Minnesota right now is stable. We have been careful about the up-ramp of our economy, and we'll continue to do that, thanks to the governor's leadership."
Badley compared the rapid-fire breakthroughs on COVID-19 to the years-long effort it took to understand and treat HIV, the virus the causes AIDs. It took years to understand HIV and develop therapies to treat it. Scientists working on COVID have achieved that in two months.
Badly was asked if there were discoveries on the horizon that would make face masks obsolete any time soon.
"I think there are game-changers out there that have yet to be proven, so stay tuned," he said.