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With hospital capacity strained and COVID numbers across the state continuing to rise, Gov. Tim Walz Friday morning announced new measures designed to support the state's health providers.

The actions taken by the governor, effective immediately, can be broken down into three bullet points. Walz is:

  • Putting the National Guard on alert "to provide staffing support at Minnesota’s long-term care facilities."
  • Expanding access to the COVID-19 Emergency Staffing Pool, which allows long-term care facilities to request short-term emergency temporary staffing.
  • Directing the Department of Human Services to free up capacity at state long-term care facilities.

The goal is to free up hospital beds, many of which are currently being used by patients who the governor says should instead be at long-term care facilities.

“Rising COVID-19 cases have left our hospitals too crowded, and we need action now,” Walz said in a news release announcing the plan. 

The governor is visiting North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale Friday morning.

Walz is also enacting measures to expand the availability of rapid testing, and again is relying on the National Guard to help in the effort. Guard members will help "stand up a new Community Rapid Testing Program, and assist in launching free rapid testing at community sites in Stillwater, Hutchinson, and Crookston. Three more sites will open the following week.

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Patients with COVID symptoms will be able to take a test at those locations and receive a result in minutes.

“With school in full swing and more activities moving inside due to colder weather, testing remains vital to protecting our children and families from COVID-19,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.

"By launching this community rapid testing program, we have further expanded our robust, collaborative testing network to provide even more free opportunities for families across the state. In addition to getting vaccinated, masking indoors, and staying home when sick, we know testing can help us slow the spread of the COVID-19 and limit its negative impacts in our communities.”

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