MINNEAPOLIS — Hospitals and healthcare systems across Minnesota are bracing for a wave of new patients as the state sees alarming growth in virus cases and hospitalizations are expected to follow.
The state's health department reported 3,956 new coronavirus cases and 25 deaths on Thursday, breaking the single-day record for new cases for the third straight day.
The state's totals since the pandemic began now sit at 164,865 cases and 2,555 deaths.
Minnesota health officials said Wednesday that more than 800 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, with more than 200 in intensive care. As of Thursday morning, one in every five intensive care beds across the state was occupied by a COVID-19 patient, according to Dr. Rahul Koranne, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association.
"The community spread that we are seeing is quite explosive, and that is directly translating into increasing number of COVID-19 patients that are hospitalized and increasing number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care units," he said. "That is definitely worrisome and something we are closely watching."
Data compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University show Minnesota's seven-day average of daily new cases has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, to roughly 3,068 cases as of Wednesday. The seven-day average of daily new deaths over the past two weeks climbed over 20.
Koranne said concerns around space are accompanied by staffing concerns as community transmission increases the likelihood that a healthcare worker is exposed to the virus. Staff who are exposed are either contracting the virus and stay home or self-quarantine, preventing them from being able to care for patients.
Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases expert and medical director for the Mayo Clinic's pandemic preparedness efforts, said the healthcare system's contingency planning revolves around space, staffing and supplies. There are levels of planning in place, which have so far included moving patients to locations with less demand, reassigning staff to locations with more demand, bringing nurses out of retirement and over from research departments, he said.
"We started with conventional care, moved to contingency care, and doing absolutely everything we can to avoid crisis care," he said. "So that's what we're doing now ... just making sure that we can adapt all of our workflows, adapt our hospital so that we can meet the patient care need with this surge."
Alternate care sites and deferring other medical procedures to preserve space and staff are options should the situation become extreme, but they are "nowhere near" using those at this time, he said.