Seven Minnesotans in ICU for COVID-19 care

Out of all the confirmed cases this morning, there are seven Minnesotans in intensive care for complications from COVID-19.

There are 243 ICU beds available in the entire state.

Governor Tim Walz and several other top officials briefed media today on what Minnesota is doing to address the supply issues of ICU rooms, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as the testing shortage.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management commissioner Joe Kelly said they’re working on ways to expand intensive care availability.

“We are working in earnest to expand capacity of health care system, especially ICU beds,” said Kelly.

“At the core of the strategy to deal with this pandemic, is to prevent our health care system from being overrun with the demand for critical care.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is also on board, looking at sites or existing structures to expand ICU care. Kelly said one example would be a motel possibly being converted into ICU beds, or a basketball court partitioned off to provide intensive care.

“We hope demand doesn’t exceed health care capacity,” said Kelly. “We’re in good shape now, but we are prepared to expand that system very quickly. Now is the time to develop that plan.”

“As a whole community of Minnesota government, businesses, nonprofit organizations, individuals, households and families, if we work together to take care of each other, we’ll get through this,” said Kelly.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development commissioner Steve Grove said Minnesota businesses are stepping forward to help, and cited that Ice Castle in Montevideo loaned one of their trailers to their local hospital to be used for testing patients.

Gov. Walz added that Minnesota businesses, both large and small, are stepping up in big ways to address supply issues, from agriculture and food to medical equipment.

Businesses that would like to help with the production efforts should email the Private-Public Partnership department of the HSEM at hsem.ppp@state.mn.us.

To date, there have been 262 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, but Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner urges all to act as though it is already in our communities.

“We know that represents an undercount, since not all cases are being tested.”

Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease coordinator at MDH, added that the clustering of cases, or where it’s spreading person-to-person, is happening in households.

Ehresmann also said that 40 to 80 percent of Minnesotans could catch the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 disease.

“Each year we expect five to 20 percent of the population to be infected with influenza,” she said. “We also have vaccines and some level of historical immunity.”

“We expect to see higher rates of infection since no one has any immunological history with this virus,” Erhesmann said.

Health officials largely agree that 15 percent of those who catch novel coronavirus will need hospitalization, and five percent will need intensive care.

Walz pointed to data modeling work currently being done at the University of Minnesota to predict when the peak of the infections will hit and when hospitals reach capacity.

“If I believe shutting everything down and keeping everyone in their house will slow it down, that’s the action that we’ll take,” said Walz. “But the modeling may show there is a smarter or more targeted way to address this.”

Walz said that the social mitigation efforts will continue well past Easter, and cited that places like China and South Korea have seen recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases after movement restrictions were lifted.


Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers events and issues in north central Minnesota, which include local government, crime, courts, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University and received her degree in 2018. Larissa, native to the great state of New York, grew up in Bemidji, and enjoys spending her spare time with her family and pet cat. She also loves Star Trek, punk rock music and the theater.


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