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'This has never been more serious' | Health officials report no available critical care beds in Itasca Co.

"We are at the crisis levels of 2020, but without the same levels of COVID precautions in place."
Credit: KARE 11

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Health officials in Itasca County say they're out of beds for patients requiring critical care due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, according to a press release.

Officials say local facilities are finding "work-arounds," but they're urging residents to take precautions ahead of the holiday season.

"The community needs to know that this has never been more serious," Kelly Chandler with Itasca County Public Health said in a press release on Friday. "We are at the crisis levels of 2020, but without the same levels of COVID precautions in place. For your own sakes, dig out your masks and limit your exposure to groups, especially indoors. Go back to social distancing. And definitely get your COVID vaccine and flu shot if you haven't already—you are far less likely to need an ICU bed if you do."

Data shows that the 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents in Itasca was at 116.4 as of Nov. 11. Officials reported 318 COVID cases in the past week, including the county's 91st fatality.

"This is a very critical moment for our community," said Jean MacDonell, president/CEO for Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital. "At Grand Itasca, we are seeing historically high numbers of patients presenting to our emergency department and patients needing hospital or intensive care. Our staffing and space is stretched to its very limits. We continue to keep an extra doctor in house to be able to care for as many patients as possible on our medical and intensive care units. But still, we have been on divert, or unable to admit any more patients, more often than not over the last couple weeks. All local and regional facilities are feeling this pressure on our facility, especially our emergency department.

COVID-19 Update - Please stay safe, not only with COVID but any emergencies or accidents! Our healthcare partners need everyone's help.

Posted by Itasca County Public Health on Friday, November 12, 2021

"We plead with you to do everything you can do to keep yourself safe in the coming weeks. Especially with deer hunting season, the recent snowfall and the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, please do all you can to remain health and safe. Please know we are committed to being here for our patients when you need us, but we need our community to take this very seriously and set up to do your part."

Many health officials have spoken out as of late as this trend becomes more and more common. On Friday, officials with HealthPartners said they were caring for more patients with COVID than it has all year. There are 148 patients across the system and many of them are at Regions Hospital. 

"But we have many other sick patients that have delayed care," said Regions Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bret Haake.

It's forcing the hospital to take new steps to help reduce the strain including:

  • Partnering across the HealthPartners system to address capacity challenges and ensure patients receive the right level of care
  • Collaborating regularly with other care systems and hospitals across the state
  • Prioritizing timely discharges earlier in the day
  • Adapting any available spaces, some unconventional, to provide high-quality care to patients
  • Moving testing/procedures from hospitals when they can be done in an outpatient setting, such as colonoscopies
  • Maximizing use of community paramedics, hospital at home, and telehealth services

"We need to be thoughtful about sore throats, colds and aches and pains and the kinds of things that don't need to be seen in the emergency room in general," Dr. Haake said. "We are not rationing care, but we are absolutely stretching every resource that we have."

Allina Health and CentraCare are reporting the same problems. CentraCare says the ER at its St. Cloud hospital has so many patients, they have to wait several hours until they can get the care they need.

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