A Minnesota state trooper said Tuesday that his belief that a united nationwide effort was needed to stymie the coronavirus outbreak inspired him to share some of his scarce state-issued medical masks with a doctor along an east-central Minnesota highway.
Brian Schwartz was parked under an Interstate 35 overpass in North Branch on March 21, when he clocked Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua going 85 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone in her SUV. Schwartz stopped the cardiologist and gave her a warning.
Having noticed a used medical mask next to her, Schwartz also gave her five of his state-issued N95 masks, half his supply of those coveted protective items. That unsolicited gift brought tears to the doctor’s eyes.
“By her appearance, it looked like she had been through it, like it had been a tough time for her,” Schwartz said of Janjua, who had just gotten off duty in Duluth, where she was working in a quarantine unit for Essentia Health that included coronavirus patients.
“We’re all in this together,” the trooper said Tuesday of the sacrifices that he and others are making to corral the spread of the deadly virus. “Everybody is facing this all at the same time. … We all have to band together to defeat it or see it go away.”
Schwartz said this single act on a highway shoulder is just one example in recent weeks of how he is changing his practices as he interacts every day on patrol with the public. “I am not taking documents out of people’s hands” when he pulls someone over for a violation, he said. “I write down the information I need.”
When issuing a written warning or citation, “I’ll bring it up to the car with me and ask, ‘Do you want me to hand it to you?’ We’re just being much more cautious.”
He also made one more acknowledgment, hesitating at first because he doesn’t want to give speeders a green light along his patrol turf from northern Washington County up to Rush City.
“I’m more selective as to what I am stopping people for,” he said. Schwartz said he is trying to reduce person-to-person contact and to make each stop “more worth their time and my time.”
State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank cautioned that troopers are noticing a surge in motorists going too fast all around the state. And that included Janjua, who acknowledged before a worldwide CNN television audience that Schwartz’s radar gun was accurate.
“I was speeding,” the doctor said. “I was fully expecting a ticket.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482