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'Masks Are Back': COVID ICU Hospitalizations Rise Across MN Again

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Two weeks ago, there were 19 patients in Minnesota ICU beds. That number has since tripled and health experts fear it will only get worse.

"When I say now they're coming in sicker than ever, I mean it," said Mary Turner, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association and a COVID-19 ICU nurse at North Memorial Medical Center.

She says over the past week or two she's seen things pick up.

"Intubating somebody was kind of the last resort. Putting a breath tube down them, kind of a last resort. Nope. Now they come in the emergency room, they come into our floor, and they're right away intubated on their stomachs," said Turner. "Covid is back stronger than ever."

Chief Medical Officer at Alomere Health in Alexandria Dr. Deb Dittberner is seeing similar occurrences in her hospitals.

"We have gone from five active cases in the county six days ago to 38 this morning," said Dittberner. "I think it will double in the next seven days."

"People are getting sicker faster and they're needing care quicker than they did with the previous surges we've had," said Helen Strike, President of two local Allina hospitals and part of the state's Critical Care Coordinating Center that keeps an eye on hospital capacity.

Strike said the group is back to biweekly meetings.

"It's gotten us thinking again and looking at our plans and making sure we're ready," she said.

Strike says COVID-19 ICU patients are younger and mostly unvaccinated.

"This is unfortunate but not unexpected, this is a crazy virus," said Strike.

Dittberner said it's not too late to get vaccinated and thinks precautions like masking should come back.

"Masks are back," said Dittberner. "When we're in a surge and we're seeing the numbers go up, that's how we can control this."

Turner echoed Dittberner's concern for Minnesotans' health and safety.

"This is nothing to fool around with and the sad thing is it's preventable," said Turner. "I care about you, the people of Minnesota, and this is unnecessary."

"We have heard regret stories definitely and we've heard the other side too," said Dittberner, referring to patients who reflect on their vaccination status once they are in the hospital.

Dittberner said she is also encouraged by the effectiveness and availability of recent Monoclonal antibodies treatment. She said it is most effective for people within 10 days of realizing they are positive for COVID-19 and have been shown to improve outcomes in an outpatient setting.

To find out if you qualify for the treatment check here.

WCCO has also been told hospitals are facing some staffing shortages, adding an extra layer of complexity to an already overwhelming issue.

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