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COVID Delta Surge Puts Strain On Minnesota Hospitals: 'Everybody's Exhausted'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota health care leaders say they're struggling right now with the surge from the COVID-19 delta variant.

As hospital beds continue to fill up, the strain on the system is affecting both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

State data shows the surge is smaller as of yet than previous ones during the pandemic. But Kate Mudrey-Wilsman, an ICU nurse at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, says the patients she's treating are younger than they've ever been -- and being hospitalized for longer. She says every COVID-19 patient in her ICU is unvaccinated, except one.

"It's not anything that we can see the end, you know, in sight yet," Mudrey-Wilsman said. "It's continuing and continuing and everybody's exhausted."

One of Mudrey-Wilsman's patients is a 36-year-old unvaccinated woman.

"[She] has no other underlying health conditions … and has been here now for about a week and she's on a ventilator," she said.

Taken as a whole, there are enough beds in Minnesota right now to handle the rising cases. That may not be true in individual health care systems. Dr. George Morris, the COVID-19 incident commander for the St. Cloud-based CentraCare system, says their ICU capacity is "essentially full."

COVID Hospital Generic
(credit: CBS)

"It is just getting worse, because we still have the regular medical care that we need to do, but now you throw in this delta-related surge, and it just becomes a big challenge and we are really struggling to manage that," Morris said.

Morris says their system is currently using 10 extra ICU beds for overflow. Ninety percent of CentraCare's COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

A spokesperson for Hennepin Healthcare gave this statement to WCCO Sunday: "We remain at a very high census like the rest of the metro area and it's very concerning if COVID cases continue to rise."

HealthPartners also shared this statement: "As of Sunday morning, there were 68 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across HealthPartners hospitals. That's up from a single-digit number of patients at the end of June. It's also important to note that about 98% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. In addition, our hospitals are significantly busier now with non-COVID patients than during previous surges, and as a result, the strain that COVID-19 cases are putting on the system is similar."

Doctors and other health professionals continue to ask Minnesotans to consider getting vaccinated.

"People that get vaccinated can, you know, get COVID, can pass it on. We just see it's much less, it's much less severe and really, the damage is being done to people that are unvaccinated right now," Morris said.

Sixty-five percent of eligible Minnesotans are fully vaccinated, while that number jumps to 90% for senior citizens.

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