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Minnesota's COVID-19 situation is dire, and too few are taking steps to stop it

Health officials say they're hoping to avoid another lockdown, but need people to stick to the advice already out there.

Health officials are imploring Minnesotans to abide by COVID-19 recommendations as the situation grows increasingly dire in the state.

Minnesota posted a record number of single-day cases – more than 5,400 – on Friday, along with a further 36 deaths.

And the situation is particularly acute in Minnesota's hospitals, with the total number of hospitalized passing 1,000 for the first time Friday, amid reports this week that hospitals in the Twin Cities are seeing ICUs approaching capacity due to staffing shortages linked to the virus.

The severity of the latest wave of the virus in Minnesota raised the specter of a return to the lockdown measures seen at the start of the pandemic.

Gov. Tim Walz has recently suggested that he didn't want to bring back some of the measures put in place earlier in this year, but on Friday the state's director of infectious diseases Kris Ehresmann said this can only be avoided if Minnesotans stick with the existing guidance about wearing face masks, observing social distancing, regular hand-washing, and limiting social gatherings.

""If Minnesotans were following the guidance that currently exists, we wouldn’t need further dialbacks, but just given the fact we’ve not seen those behavior changes, we just need to keep getting that message out," she said Friday.

"The most important message that we need to get to the public: you have got to make changes. Your choices are impacting the capacity of our health care system to serve you and the other people that need it.

"We need people to take this seriously and make some changes.”

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The Star Tribune spoke to HCMC physician Dr. John Hick, who said Minnesota is rapidly becoming a "disaster situation" and warned that unless people limit their social circle and wear face masks, a lockdown over the holiday season is possible.

Minnesota has been able to handle its hospital capacity issues by transferring patients to different locations around the state, but it remains the case that there are only so many staff left to provide care, which is also the case in the state's long-term care facilities.

Earlier this week, Gov. Walz requested federal support to help with the surge that has seen Twin Cities' ICU capacity hit 98%, and 92% statewide.

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