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“The situation is critical”: Minnesota hospitals beg people to get vaccinated

An older couple in a hospital.
Enlarge / A man prays at the bedside of his wife, who is intubated and remains critically-ill after a COVID infection in the South Seven Intensive Care Unit Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minn.

Nine Minnesota hospital systems published a joint letter Sunday saying that all of their beds are full, doctors and nurses are overwhelmed and demoralized, and their ability to provide care is threatened.

“We’re heartbroken, we’re overwhelmed… The situation is critical,” they wrote in the letter, which was published as full-page ads in newspapers statewide. It was signed by executives from Allina Health, Children’s Minnesota, CentraCare, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, HealthPartners, Hennepin Healthcare, Mayo Clinic, and North Memorial Health.

Minnesota currently has the third-highest rate of new daily COVID-19 infections of any state in the US, with 76 cases per 100,000 people. Cases have risen 24 percent over the last two weeks, and they are expected to continue rising. Test positivity in the North Star State is currently over 11 percent, and only 64 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.

Hospitalizations are already at record highs for 2021, with a seven-day average of over 1,770 and rising. The state’s all-time record for hospitalizations was set last December at just over 2,000. On Friday, only 13 of the state’s 1,012 staffed adult ICU beds were available, according to the Star Tribune.

“Our emergency departments are overfilled, and we have patients in every bed in our hospitals,” the health systems’ letter went on. While their facilities are overrun with “avoidable” cases of COVID-19, the crush has threatened other care, including for heart attacks, car-accident injuries, stroke, cancer, and appendicitis, they warn.

Stop the spread

“How can we as a society stand by and watch people die when a simple shot could prevent a life-threatening illness? Your access to health care is being seriously threatened by COVID-19. We need to stop the spread!” the letter reads. It concludes with a plea for people to get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks, socially distance, and encourage others to take these precautions as well.

Minnesota isn’t alone in being overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. States throughout the Midwest and Northeast are seeing skyrocketing numbers, which are only expected to worsen with the end-of-year holidays. At least four states have already called on the National Guard to help ease the patient load: Maine, New York, New Hampshire, and Indiana.

Nationally, new daily cases are hovering around 120,000, an increase of 43 percent over two weeks. Hospitalizations are nearing 66,000, a 23 percent increase from two weeks ago. Overall in the pandemic, the US is approaching a total of 50 million COVID-19 cases and 800,000 deaths.

Nearly all of the cases in the US currently are due to the delta coronavirus variant, which is hypertransmissible. But experts are anxiously watching the spread of the omicron variant, which appears to spread even faster and can dodge protective antibodies from previous infections and two vaccine doses. Experts say that a booster dose can reinstate high levels of protection, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging everyone aged 16 and older to get a booster dose.

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