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At least one Minnesota hospital has brought in a refrigerator truck to help it extend its morgue capacity as COVID-19 continues to surge in Minnesota, which continues to overwhelm hospitals and health care workers. 

North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale spokesperson Jacquie Fiorillo told Bring Me The News the "current reality calls for this assistance," noting "Our health systems have been operating at capacity for many weeks."

Minnesota has been under the tight grip of the delta variant for months, with the state reporting thousands of cases almost every day since early August, resulting in more than 1,500 patients with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, including 366 in intensive care. Very few staffed ICU beds, for both adults and children, are available statewide. 

"We encourage Minnesotans to take preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 including the new omicron variant. This includes reducing social gatherings, wearing a mask in all public places and vaccination including a booster dose," Fiorillo told Bring Me The News. 

Bring Me The News has reached out to other health care systems to see if they're taking a similar approach as North Memorial. 

Related: COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Minnesota dominated by unvaccinated

Health care workers are hoping to get the message to Minnesotans about how dire the situation is. Earlier this month, Minnesota health care systems took out a full-page ad in local newspapers to stress the severity of the current COVID-19 situation in Minnesota. This week, hospitals in the Northland released a PSA urging people to get vaccinated as health care workers continue to be exhausted and overwhelmed by the pandemic. 

And on Monday, nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) held a news conference to talk about the crisis local hospitals continue to face.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is worse than ever," said MNA President Mary Turner, who is an ICU nurse at North Memorial. "ICU beds are full and patients are back in the hallways and waiting rooms. This isn't just happening in the Twin Cities, it's everywhere in Minnesota."

Turner said the message is "urgent." 

"We need the public, hospital executives and elected officials to hear us when we say nurses are at a breaking point," Turner said. "I know about a year and a half ago we were in this same room and I likened what we were going into was a war and that we were soldiers going into battle. And I'm telling you, we're losing the war. We're losing the war."

Related: Minnesota's hospital crisis worsens, hundreds waiting in emergency rooms

The burnout nurses and other health care workers are facing is nothing new. Kelly Anaas, an ICU nurse at Abbott Northwester, said hospitals have been understaffed "long before" the pandemic began and health systems leaders "burned out a lot of staff before the first coronavirus case hit our doorstep in Minnesota."

"We can't keep showing up like this when they aren't showing up for us," Anaas said of hospital executives. 

Anaas added: "Believe me when I tell you we are languishing in there. We're told to take care of ourselves and then have our vacation days denied due to lack of staff."

The MNA is calling on politicians and hospital executives to take action to support health care workers, and is asking the public to continue to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to help ease the burden on hospitals.

Related: Health officials encourage getting vaccinated and tested before the holidays

Public health officials across the state have the same message, especially with the holidays upon us: 

"Get the vaccine and the booster for god sake. Wear your mask and practice social distance, and get tested when you need to," Turner said.

The state has taken some action to help health care workers. Federal medical teams have been sent to Minnesota to help support hospital workers at the request of Gov. Tim Walz, with the support at Hennepin County Medical Center, St. Cloud Hospital and M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital. 

And Walz has called in the National Guard and launched a recruiting effort to assist at long-term care facilities, which also are facing staffing shortages and burnout. 

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