Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that the federal government will provide Minnesota with two Department of Defense medical teams to support hospitals as COVID-19 surges and further strains doctors and nurses who have been fighting the coronavirus nonstop for the past 20 months.
"Every day, our doctors and nurses are treating Minnesotans sick with COVID-19 or suffering other emergencies. But they are under water, and they need all the help we can give them. I’m grateful the Biden Administration heeded our request and is sending in reinforcements," Walz said in a release.
The emergency medical teams feature 22 medical personnel per team. They will arrive next week and be stationed at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and St. Cloud Hospital.
"There are very, very few teams available to be deployed across the whole nation," said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who noted that more Minnesota hospitals also need the help but getting it to them requires more teams becoming available. Malcolm said the state has submitted applications for additional help from the feds.
As of Tuesday, there were 1,382 Minnesotans hospitalized with COVID-19 and only 47 staffed ICU beds were available in the entire state. The limited capacity prompted Walz to open a third alternative care site that will free up bed space in long-term care facilities.
The alternative care site has been identified as Cerenity Senior Care-Marian in St. Paul, where up to 27 patients can transition from hospitals to open up bed space for patients who require higher-level care. The site will be staffed by 25 medical professionals, including 10 skilled nurses and 15 members of the Minnesota National Guard.
The two other alternative care sites are Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in Brainerd and Benedictine St. Gertrude’s in Shakopee.
Minnesota is the worst COVID hotspot in the country
Minnesota is currently the epicenter of the worst of COVID in the United States and the numbers are staggering when compared to the rest of the country.
At 80 cases per 100,000 people, Minnesota is more than triple the national rate of 26 per 100,000. The next closest is Michigan at 72, followed by New Mexico (65), North Dakota (62), New Hampshire (62) and Wisconsin (58).
"This is a dangerous time," said Walz.
For context, health officials considered anything over 10 per 100,000 to indicate high levels of community transmission. From a micro view, the rates are even more alarming in numerous Minnesota counties.
Per the New York Times, there are 17 counties in Minnesota with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people, led by Dodge County at a whopping 173. What's more is that from a national view, 25 of the 100 highest county case rates in the country are located in Minnesota.
- 3. Dodge County - 173 cases per 100,000 people
- 8. Wadena - 149
- 9. Goodhue - 148
- 12. Mille Lacs - 134
- 13. Kanabec - 132
- 17. Sherburne - 128
- 18. Itasca - 127
- 23. Todd - 119
- 26. Benton- 116
- 28. Douglas - 114
- 30. Wabasha - 112
- 38. Wright - 108
- 38. Pine - 108
- 43. Beltrami - 107
- 45. Meeker - 105
- 49. Kandiyohi - 104
- 57. Roseau - 101
- 69. Scott - 98
- 71. Carver - 97
- 71. Morrison - 97
- 80. Chisago - 95
- 81. Isanti - 94
- 89. Blue Earth - 93
- 92. Otter Tail - 92
- 99. Hubbard - 91
There are more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. and despite just 2.8% of them being in Minnesota, the state accounts for 25% of the 100 highest county case rates in the country. More: There are only 63 counties nationwide with a case rate above 100 and 17 of them are in Minnesota.
Minnesota's test positivity rate (through Nov. 9) is 10.5%, putting the entire state in the highest risk threshold for the delta variant, which has proved to be the most contagious variant of the coronavirus to date. It's the first time Minnesota has been in the high-risk threshold since mid-December 2020.
Also on Wednesday the Minnesota Medical Association, which comprises more than 11,000 physicians and physicians in-training, urged Minnesotans to get vaccinated and receive the booster shot if eligible.
“We know that Minnesotans are tired of hearing this, but everyone has to do their part to slow the spread of this virus,” said MMA President Randy Rice, MD. “The best way to fight this is for more people to get vaccinated. Healthcare workers will continue to do their jobs, but we are struggling, and we need help. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, please do so, and then mask up and stay socially distant.”
According to the MMA, 70% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota are unvaccinated.