Omicron drives COVID cases up as Minnesota hospital beds fill

As of last week, the Minnesota Department of Health reported there have been more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state and more than 10,000 people have died from illnesses connected to COVID and its variants.

MDH data also shows there are only 34 adult intensive care unit beds available across the state and only 15 ICU beds available for children as of Wednesday. There are 345 non-ICU adult hospital beds open and 40 non-ICU beds available for children.

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Dr. Peter Bornstein, with St. Paul Infectious Disease Associates, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the omicron variant does not appear to be making people sicker than previous variants, but is definitely more transmissible and the pressure on hospitals and medical staff, in his opinion, will likely grow worse over the next two-to-four weeks.

“I believe we’re going to hit a blizzard of COVID cases in the next couple of weeks here in Minnesota if it follows the patterns we are seeing up and down the East coast,” said Bornstein. “If you have more people getting sick at the same time it will really swamp the hospital system.”

And, Bornstein said, if there is a large pattern of people all getting ill at the same time, hospitals are not the only part of the community that will struggle over the next month to month-and-a-half.

“It’s one of those things you already see the pressures of COVID happening, in general, community terms, with airlines, fire, police, school teachers, bus drivers and just about any part of the community you can think of,” said Bornstein.

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Bornstein said, if the omicron variant acts like it has in South Africa where it was first discovered, he expects there to be a significant surge in Minnesota over the next two-to-four weeks and then he said he hopes by mid-February the variant will have peaked and there will be less pressure on hospitals and the medical care system.