The numbers are stunning.
Earlier this week, Mayo Clinic revealed that more than 1,000 staff members have been sidelined by COVID-19, either by caring for a sick family member, being in quarantine for exposure to the illness or suffering from the virus itself.
The pandemic is stretching resources thin at hospitals throughout the country. Beds are filling up. Personal protection equipment is in short supply and available ventilators are scarce. But nothing is quite as disconcerting than learning that one of the world's premiere medical facilities doesn't have enough people.
"The most critical worry we have now is staffing," Dr. Amy Williams, dean of Clinic Practice at Mayo, told reporter Paul John Scott. "We have an increase in staff absences, and this may end up limiting our ability to care for patients."
Also surprising is that few of the employees off work due to the virus were exposed while on the job. Williams said 93% of staff exposures have come from contacts in the Rochester community. That's us, the family, friends and neighbors of medical workers. Can you think of a more compelling reason to do our parts to stem the COVID tide?
And Mayo is not alone. More than 400 soldiers and airmen from the Minnesota National Guard have been activated to support the state’s COVID-19 response efforts, according to the Albert Lea Tribune. The extra hands will be used at COVID-19 testing sites and to cover staffing shortages at nursing homes.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced a four-week "pause," advising people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary, closing bars and restaurants (take-out will still be available) and canceling youth sports. His announcement came on the same day that the national COVID-19 death toll surpassed 250,000.
But amid all the sober news there is cause to celebrate. Two COVID-19 vaccines may start to be distributed soon, possibly in December. Even so, it will be months before a vaccine becomes available to everyone.
Until then, we must all do our parts.
Mind your distance. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Stay at home.