Minnesota ICU capacity pressured as COVID-19 cases climb
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota hospitals are under pressure and ICU beds are nearing full capacity as COVID-19 cases reached another record high and hospitalizations continue to surge, health officials said Wednesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 887 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 219 patients in intensive care due to breathing problems or other complications from the coronavirus, the Department of Health reported. State health officials said ICU bed use is at 98% capacity in the Twin Cities metro area and 92% statewide, a cause for concern as case growth continues to grow and hospitalizations are expected to follow.
“As we’ve been saying, hospitalizations lag a bit behind case growth and sadly, mortality lags behind hospitalizations, so as these numbers continue to go up, we’re concerned about capacity in a lot of different contexts,” said Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner. “We absolutely acknowledge that these numbers strain many of our critical systems in our society.”
The vast majority of ICU beds are occupied by patients recovering from ailments unrelated to COVID-19, but the continued rise in hospitalizations is straining capacity.
Malcolm said hospitals and healthcare systems statewide have been moving patients to locations with larger capacity and more beds, both within their own systems and to other locations with the help of the state, in an effort to preemptively limit strains on capacity. In addition to state efforts, Gov. Tim Walz requested 10 additional medical professionals from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday to help staff hospitals and long-term care facilities experiencing shortages.
Minnesota health officials reported 3,844 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday — breaking a record set just a day earlier. It’s the fourth time daily cases climbed over 3,000 in the past week after reaching that figure for the first time last Thursday.
The state also reported 31 deaths Wednesday, bringing Minnesota’s totals to 160,923 cases and 2,530 deaths since the pandemic began.
State health officials said Wednesday that case growth over the past seven days climbed over 15% — almost twice as large as the testing growth rate of nearly 8% in the same time frame.
According to The COVID Tracking Project, the 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Minnesota has risen over the past two weeks from 6.53% on Oct. 20 to 10.54% on Nov. 3. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Minnesota the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.