Walz requests $40M in federal funding to help hospitals amid latest COVID-19 surge

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Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced he is requesting $40 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan to help support state hospitals amid the latest COVID-19 surge.

As 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS previously reported, hospitals are facing an influx of patients and medical staff who are getting sick themselves.

"It feels like a marathon, but there is really no finish line right now," said Dr. Michael Schwemm, medical director of emergency services at Mercy Hospital.

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Walz said the $40 million would cover costs for providers, primarily registered nurses, who will work 60 hours per week for 60 days to provide care for patients at certain state hospitals facing staffing shortages.

"This funding will support our health care heroes and help Minnesotans get the care they need," Walz said in a statement. "Minnesotans also have an important role to play in supporting our hospitals. The best thing they can do to protect themselves and their families and support our frontline workers is to get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and to stay home when they are sick."

Additionally, Walz announced that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is taking emergency action to provide relief to hospitals and long-term care facilities, including waiving licensing fees and restrictions that come with adding new beds in hospitals and nursing homes due to COVID-19 surges; allowing nursing homes to reactivate beds that were previously noted as vacant to expand capacity; and allowing nursing homes to more easily move or transfer patients, avoiding normal transfer and waiting periods.

"Today’s measures underscore the dire situation we are in due to the Omicron surge," MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. "Minnesota’s doctors, nurses, hospital, and long-term care staff are working heroically to make sure all of us get the care we need. We all owe it to them to do our part. We are working hard as a state to support them, and we need all Minnesotans to do their part to minimize the spread of COVID-19."

According to state data, as of Tuesday, state hospitals are treating more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients, with nearly 260 in ICUs.

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