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Hospitals across Minnesota, facing near-crippling capacity challenges, are issuing another urgent plea to the state's residents: Do not go to the ER or an urgent care center to get a COVID test.

"We have run out of words to describe what we are undergoing — a crisis does not even come close; hospitals are literally full," the Minnesota Hospital Association said Friday. "We urgently need the public’s help to keep our emergency departments available for medical emergencies."

Related: Minnesota physicians group urges more public mask mandates

The association, which represents the state's hospitals and health systems, said people who need a COVID test should utilize a state testing site or a home test kit. Going to the ER uses up care resources and staff that are already stretched thin amid an alarming COVID surge.

"Please help us keep our emergency department capacity and staff available for medical emergencies," the association said.

Friday's COVID-19 update from the Minnesota Department of Health shows 1,467 people in the hospital with COVID, 269 of which are in intensive care. The latest hospital capacity data shows there are 20 staffed adult ICU beds available in the entire state – up from 19 on Jan. 5 – and 12 pediatric ICU beds available, which is down from 14 on Jan. 5.

hospital beds 01-07-2022

Demand for testing has surged in recent weeks as people return to work and school following the end-of-year holiday break.

"The care capacity throughout all of Minnesota is severely limited — ICUs are full, emergency departments are full, medical-surgical units are full, hallways are full, and surgeries are being canceled," the Minnesota Hospital Association said. "To continue to serve the high volume of patients that need care for strokes, heart attacks, emergency surgeries, motor vehicle accidents, and COVID-19, we need your help now."

The hospital association's plea came a day after Essentia Health issued its own similar message to residents, reminding them not to go to an emergency room or urgent care center for a COVID test. 

"Please keep our emergency departments and staff available for medical emergencies," Essentia said, adding: "If your symptoms are severe and you believe you have a medical emergency, we are here to care for you."

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