Minnesota health officials have for weeks been stressing the importance of keeping healthcare workers healthy so they can staff hospital beds that are quickly filling up with COVID-19 patients, and an update Tuesday from the Mayo Clinic reveals just how fast hospitals can be backed into a corner when staff fall ill or have to quarantine due to exposure to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Amy Williams, dean of clinical practices at Mayo Clinic, said 905 Mayo staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in just the last two weeks.
Williams said 93% of infections weren't contracted from patients, but instead from the community. The majority of staff who were infected at work got it when their masks were off in a break room.
“It shows you how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the Midwest,” said Williams.
The 905 new infections brings Mayo Clinic's total to 2,981 employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
The staff shortages have raised concerns about hospital capacity. No matter how many beds are available, a bed can only be occupied if trained staff are able to work it.
"All of our hospitals are really stretched, many are absolutely full at this time and throughout Minnesota, we are seeing an increase of hospitalizations and the need to bring up more beds for patients," said Williams.
Gov. Tim Walz is expected to take executive action during a televised speech Wednesday at 6 p.m. and place tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and sports.
Minnesota saw an average of approximately 2,500 new COVID-19 cases per day over the final two weeks of October, only to see the numbers spike significantly in November. Over the past week, there have been between 5,000 and 9,000 new cases confirmed each day.
The fear – and reason for Walz's tighter restrictions – is that the explosion of new cases will lead to a similar spike in the number of people who will require hospital care in the next few weeks. There is generally a lag time of 2-3 weeks from a positive test to the point that a person requires hospitalization.