Minnesota hospital leaders express concerns as COVID-19 hospitalizations push ICUs toward capacity

Alex Jokich
Updated: November 06, 2020 06:11 PM
Created: November 06, 2020 06:02 PM

Hospital leaders throughout Minnesota are expressing concerns about the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, as intensive care units are nearing capacity.

Friday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 986 people were hospitalized with the virus, with 212 people in the ICU.

The number of hospitalizations has been rapidly climbing since mid-September.

There have been more than 100 new hospitalizations nearly every day over the past two weeks. For reference, in June, there were typically 20-30 new hospitalizations per day.

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State health officials said ICUs in the metro hit 98% capacity this week. Statewide, ICUs are at 92% capacity.

"We are not in a situation where we have no ICU beds, but they are not easy to find. They are not readily available," said Helen Strike, president of Allina Health's Regina and River Falls Hospitals. "When we start to see hospitalizations increase, when we start to see hospital capacities and ICU beds decrease for people who are sick, that's when we have to be really concerned. We need to be really concerned now."

Strike said Allina is starting to activate its 'surge plans.' That includes moving staff from other departments to help with critical care, bringing retired health care workers back into the hospitals and discharging patients who are healthy enough for home monitoring.

State health officials are warning Minnesotans to be diligent in social distancing and mask-wearing in the coming weeks.

State leaders identify alternate care site in Roseville in event area hospitals reach capacity

"The most important message that we need to get to the public: you have got to make changes. Your choices are impacting the capacity of our health care system to serve you and the other people that need it," said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. "We need people to take this seriously and make some changes.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked if the State Emergency Operations Center will open its alternate care site in Roseville to help with the surge in hospitalizations. MDH officials said they aren't considering that "any time soon." They said it would only open if "all ICU, critical care, patient care, non-patient care beds and overflow areas within our hospitals are in use and hospitals are unable to redistribute patients across the state."


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