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With Minnesota still dealing with a hospital capacity crisis due to COVID-19, Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday the opening of an "alternative care site" to help facilities that are being overwhelmed.

The governor announced that Benedictine St. Gertrude’s senior living community in Shakopee will as of Tuesday accept up to 30 patients from area hospitals and provide "transitional care," relieving some of the pressure on facilities dealing with rising COVID hospitalizations.

Those most likely to be moved to the Shakopee facility are Minnesotans who should otherwise be treated at long-term care facilities following procedures such as surgery, but who cannot yet return to long-term care due to staffing and/or bed shortages.

Walz says that Benedictine St. Gertrude's will operate as a "skilled nursing facility" with eight nurses and four nursing assistants forming a COVID-19 Emergency Staffing Pool at the site.

There will also be extra temporary nursing assistants provided by the Minnesota National Guard.

The latest Minnesota Department of Health COVID figures have shown cases back on the rise after a little dip in mid-October, and the number of people hospitalized grew by 70 over the weekend to a statewide total of 978.

State figures show there remain just 18 staffed ICU hospital beds and 50 staffed non-ICU beds in the Twin Cities metro currently.

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“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for our hospitals. We are answering the call from Minnesota’s doctors and nurses, who are asking for support and relief as they treat critically ill COVID-19 patients," said Gov. Walz.

"Our action plan is aimed at easing the burden on Minnesota hospitals, providing more capacity for Minnesotans who are sick with COVID-19, and ensuring all patients are receiving the care that is right for them. There is more work to be done, but today is an important step."

In October, Walz took steps to free up capacity at long-term care facilities including by scrambling the National Guard to provide staffing support at decompression facilities, and expanding the Emergency Staffing Pool to allow short-term emergency temporary staff to be used to open up extra beds for those ready to be discharged from hospitals.

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