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Hospitals remain full on second Thanksgiving of pandemic

As of Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reports more than 1,400 people were treated for COVID-19 statewide.

ST PAUL, Minn. — By around midday Thanksgiving Day, Allina Health emergency room nurse Makayla Reimers had a good sense of the pace at United Hospital in St. Paul. She started her 12-hour shift at 7 a.m.

"Today itself, we're full," Reimers said. "We don't have this huge long wait in triage today but I can tell you yesterday was a different story."

Hospitals statewide have been at capacity in recent weeks due to an influx of COVID-19 patients.

"I can't say that our entire ER is COVID right now, but we definitely have patients with COVID," Reimers said.

Meanwhile out in the field, fellow Allina Health employee Kerry Callahan supervised EMS operations in the north metro.

"Yeah, there have been a fair number today that have been COVID positive," Callahan said. "More severe illnesses today and some crashes. I would say pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. Not quite as busy as it has been other days."

Even on a holiday, these health care heroes are happy to help.

"This is so normal really," Reimers said. "We all know that we have to do it  and it's okay. I mean, this is my second family here."

As a way of saying thanks, Allina Health and IAEP Local 167, a labor union representing Allina employees, delivered hot turkey meals to EMS crews.

"I feel great," Callahan said. "I love this job. I love my career. I look forward to coming here every day. It's still a privilege to be able to help people on their worst day — believe it or not."

With COVID cases expected to climb following Thanksgiving family gatherings and increased air travel, Callahan and Reimers ask individuals to do their part in slowing the spread of COVID as the holiday season continues.

"The vaccination topic is pretty hot-button and it's controversial but, you know, the numbers don't lie," Callahan said. "The people who have been vaccinated are getting less severe symptoms. I just really encourage that if you're not going to get it maybe revisit that topic and learn a little bit more about it." 

"We're here of course if you get sick and if you need it, but there is a way to help prevent some of this and some of the severity of the illness, and that is by getting a vaccine," Reimers said. "Especially with our increase in COVID numbers and what — Minnesota is leading the country — so we've got work to do."