ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The number of Minnesota patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has surpassed 1,400 for the first time since last December, before vaccines became available, according to figures released Friday.
According to state health department statistics, Minnesota hospitals were caring for 1,414 patients with complications of the coronavirus, including 340 patients in intensive care. Only 2% of adult intensive care unit beds were free, and 56 hospitals reported that their adult ICU beds were at capacity. Pediatric ICU bed space also was tight at 92% capacity as of Thursday.
The influx of new patients came as Minnesota reported another 5,162 new infections and 30 additional deaths. The new infections bring the state’s case total to 871,203, with more than 9,500 residents testing positive more than once.
Gov. Tim Walz's office said the federal government's move Friday to open up COVID-19 booster shots to all adults means about 1.7 million Minnesota adults who have not yet gotten a booster are now eligible.
“Boosters are an important part of keeping protection against COVID-19 high in adults and helping to mitigate some of the intense COVID-19 spread we are seeing right now, which is extremely important given our tight hospital capacity,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement.
Minnesota continues to have one of the highest rates of infection in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The testing positivity rate has risen to 10.8%. An average of over 10% is considered “high risk.”
“We are still very, very concerned about our numbers,” state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann told the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians on Thursday.
Case counts have not reached the levels seen last fall, when Minnesota hospitals saw a record 1,864 COVID-19 patients in late November.
But hospital executives across the state said COVID-19 patients, combined with other care needs, are overwhelming short-staffed care centers. Hospitals in this wave are seeing more people needing treatment for other illnesses, along with people who delayed getting care over the past year and a half.
Minnesota schools are closely monitoring the surge. Shakopee Public Schools canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday, effectively extending the Thanksgiving holiday break. School leaders hope the time away for students helps bring down cases.