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Any hope that a two-week stretch of declining hospitalizations in Minnesota was a sign that the current COVID-19 wave had peaked is gone as hospital admissions have reached a new high for the ongoing surge. 

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 1,021 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday, including 232 in intensive care. That exceeds the previous high of 1,008 reported Oct. 15 and is the highest since there were 1,048 on Dec. 23, 2020. 

Current hospital capacity is extremely limited, with just 49 staffed ICU beds available statewide. 

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After a brief dip in mid-October, cases have once again been rising in Minnesota, with the majority of those continuing to come from Greater Minnesota, where vaccination rates are typically lower and people are less likely to observe COVID mitigation efforts like mask wearing and social distancing.

Hospital capacity, which is affected by ailments of all kinds – including the ongoing RSV surge in children – and critical staffing shortages, is just shy of the lowest point of the pandemic, which was set last month when the state was down to 45 staffed ICU beds. 

"Hospital capacity is tight. On November 3, we reached a 2021 high for COVID-19 hospitalizations with 1,021 beds in use for COVID-19 patients. Only two other days within our current surge surpassed 1,000. For context, we had 1,864 COVID-19 hospitalizations on 11/29/2020," the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement to Bring Me The News. 

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"We continue to monitor the situation and work with our regional healthcare preparedness coordinators and critical care coordination center partners to shift patients loads where appropriate."

In October, the state made moves to ensure adequate hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients by freeing up space at long-term care facilities for continued care of patients transitioning out of hospitals. The National Guard is also prepared to provide support at long-term care facilities, which the state is referring to as "decompression facilities." 

Benedictine St. Gertrude's in Shakopee is already taking up to 30 patients from area hospitals to provide transitional care, which will help free up beds and staff at hospitals who need to treat patients with more severe conditions. 

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Health is reminding people to remain vigilant during the holidays by getting the COVID-19 and flu vaccines, get a booster shot if you're eligible, wear a mask in crowded settings and get tested and stay home if you're under the weather. 

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