As COVID-19 infections in Minnesota climb, hospital and critical care beds are starting to fill again.
As of Tuesday, 1,045 intensive care unit beds were in use statewide. Of those, 134 were occupied by patients who have COVID-19, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. That’s after the number of COVID patients in ICU reached a record high of 145 Sunday, according to MDH.
“It’s a slight uptick that began about a month ago,” said Mayo Clinic critical care specialist Dr. Sean Caples. “We went from a very low level of COVID patients in ICU over the summer.”
Despite the rise, Caples said the critical care units, including the intensive care unit on the sixth floor of the Mary Brigh Building where COVID patients are treated, aren’t near capacity.
“We currently have plenty of capacity at Mayo Clinic,” he said.
Caples declined to say exactly how many of those beds are filled and how many are available. One reason he gave is that both those numbers can change quickly.
“We can flex and we can make more beds,” he said. “We’re not needing to do that now.”
MDH reported Wednesday that hospitals have a total of 1,473 ICU beds across the state, which means there were about 428 beds available. The health department also identifies another 408 beds that could be ready within 72 hours, bringing the statewide capacity to 1,881 ICU beds.
“I don’t want to say we have ‘x’ number of beds, because while true, if we see a surge, we’ll actually have ‘x+y’ number of beds,” Caples explained.
When Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in May allowing hospitals and health care facilities to resume non-urgent procedures and surgeries, he required each facility to have a plan in place to scale its own procedures to manage supplies and capacity in the event of a COVID-19 surge.
While Mayo reports no capacity problems, hospitalization rates locally have followed the statewide trend. In Olmsted County, the rolling seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital for COVID has climbed to around 10 per day as of Sunday after dropping to less than two per day in September.
For more than a week, health officials have confirmed more than 1,000 new cases daily. MDH reported 1,254 confirmed COVID-19 on Wednesday, which brings the pandemic total to 115,943 cases. The new cases come amid a test positive rate that has steadily stayed above 5% the past two weeks.
State health officials had warned that rising infection counts following the Labor Day weekend would eventually lead to more hospitalizations and deaths. The increases come as neighboring states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa are seeing new highs in COVID cases
“We’re watching the numbers across the state closely,” Caples said.