“Trooper Schwartz said he noticed what appeared to be two used N95 masks in her purse that he assumed she was reusing.”

By Ian Horswill

Posted on March 31, 2020

When Dr Sarosh Ashraf Janjua, a cardiologist at a coronavirus quarantine unit, was pulled over for speeding she feared the worst.

“A Minnesota State trooper pulled me over on I-35 this past weekend for driving above the speed limit. When he saw my Massachusetts driver’s license, he asked me what I was doing all the way out in Minnesota, so I told him I travel here every month for my work as a locums cardiologist,” Janjua wrote on her Facebook page.

Janjua feared the worst as Minnesota State Trooper Brian J Schwartz went to check her licence on the computer.

“He went back to his patrol car to look up my license, and when he returned, quite firmly told me it was very irresponsible of me to be speeding,” Janjua wrote.

Schwartz told her that if her driving had led to an accident, he and other first responders would be tending to that matter rather than dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Minnesota has had 10 deaths attributed to COVID-19 and more than 570 people confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus.

Schwartz said he was going to give her a warning and Janjua thought the state trooper was handing her back her license, when she felt something far more bulky thrust into her hand.

It was five N95 face masks he was supposed to use as protection.

“I burst into tears,” she wrote. “And though it may just have been the cold wind, I think he teared up a little as well, before wishing me well and walking away.”

“Like all healthcare workers and emergency responders around the world, I have felt afraid of not having adequate protective equipment, and in my darkest moments, have worried about what would happen if I fell sick far from home,” she wrote.

“This complete stranger, who owed me nothing and is more on the front lines than I am, shared his precious masks with me, without my even asking.”

Schwartz felt duty bound to offer Janjua his N-95 masks.

“Trooper Schwartz said he noticed what appeared to be two used N95 masks in (her) purse that he assumed she was reusing,” Minnesota State Patrol’s chief spokesman, Lieutenant Gordon Shank, said in a statement. “Trooper Schwartz said he heard there was a shortage of personal protective equipment and thought the doctor could use the extra masks.”

The N95 respirator masks that health care workers need to protect themselves while treating coronavirus patients are in dangerously short supply. Physicians are being forced to wear used masks, risking infection when they care for patients.

“Thank you to Sarosh for her hard work and dedication,” Minnesota State Patrol said on its Facebook page. “Troopers are working hard during the pandemic and are thinking about all the first responders who are caring for Minnesotans during this critical time.”