As essential workers mark 1 year since the peacetime emergency declaration, a nurse couple talks about how they were affected by COVID-19

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For the Clute family of Burnsville, it has been a long pandemic year.

"Just the fear, the uncertainty and doubt," Daniel Clute says quietly.

"There’s been so much that has happened to everybody," adds his wife Alex. "It feels so long but so short at the same time."

As essential workers gathered in St. Paul— and virtually from across the state on Saturday, to mark one year since the peacetime emergency, the couple spoke about the pandemic, and how it’s affected their lives.

"You hunker down and get settled in, just like a storm is rolling in," Daniel declares. "You try to have homeopathic remedies ready, and that was actually hard because at the time we couldn’t find Vitamin C and zinc."

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The Clutes have a very busy lifestyle.

They have an 18-month old son Liam.

And both Alex and Daniel are COVID-19 unit nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul.

Daniel, 32, has treated about 500 COVID-19 patients in the past year; Alex, 31, has treated about 150 in the last three months.

"It was a scary time because I wasn’t positive for COVID," Daniel recalls. "I continued to have to keep my distance to try and not get it."

The couple took other precautions as well.

Daniel got frequent COVID-19 tests.

Even though he never tested positive, he says he slept outside their home in a tent for months to protect Alex, pregnant with Liam in early 2020.

She opted to continue working at St. Joseph’s, but outside the COVID-19 unit.

Then— Alex tested positive just after Thanksgiving.

"I was shocked," she says. "I didn’t think I would get it because we had been so careful and you just don’t think it’s going to happen to you."

The Clutes say Alex— like other front line workers— had known potential high-risk exposures.

But she says she has no idea how she was infected.

Then, a week later, Liam was diagnosed with COVID-19 as well.

"It’s so different when you’re a new mom and parenting through a pandemic, and then your child gets it from you," Alex says. "Just feel so guilty and awful."

Both mother and son had mild cases, with flu-like symptoms for about a week.

Alex still has some long-hauler symptoms— a loss of taste and smell— but those are slowly coming back, she says.

In January, the couple got their COVID-19 vaccine shots.

They hope others can get theirs soon.

"Getting the population vaccinated, getting a high rate as soon as possible is going to help the whole world here," Daniel notes.

They say despite the loosening of restrictions across Minnesota, people should not let their guard down.

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"You never know with COVID," Alex says. "I mean, I’ve seen so many people go downhill so fast. It’s so unpredictable, why press your luck?"

They also hope Minnesotans will continue to take precautions, like mask-wearing and social distancing— until the pandemic is under control.

"I feel like it’s given me a lot of perspective and mom always said these experiences give you growing pains," Alex says. "And I feel we grew a lot in the past year."