2 Minnesota Hospitals Swamped with COVID to Get Help From Defense Department Medical Teams

The Department of Defense will be assisting two Minnesota hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, the Associated Press reported.

Governor Tim Walz, whose state has become a hotspot for infections, made the announcement on Wednesday. Two teams consisting of 22 people will arrive at Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital next week. Both are experiencing staff shortages and an overflow of unvaccinated patients.

"Our best defense against this is the vaccine," Walz told reporters at a virtual press conference.

Minnesota is currently the second-ranking state in the country in the number of booster shots administered, behind only Vermont.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm also discussed the recent deployment, particularly the need for other emergency teams across the country.

"There's just been a tremendous demand for those teams nationwide," Malcolm said. "At this point in time, there are very, very few teams available to be deployed across the whole nation, so the fact that Minnesota's getting two of them is great good news."

The teams will consist of 10 nurses from the federal Public Health Service and 15 nursing assistants from the Minnesota National Guard. Private vendors will provide transitional care. A skilled-nursing facility will also serve as a "hospital decompression" site for patients who are still sick with COVID-19 but do not need severe treatment.

"I need Minnesotans to recognize, as we've been saying, this is a dangerous time," Walz added.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Gov. Walz
The Department of Defense will be assisting two Minnesota hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Above, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announces measures to use the state's National Guard to alleviate staffing shortages at health care facilities that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 surge on October 15, 2021, at North Memorial Health Hospital in the Minneapolis suburb of Robbinsdale. AP Photo/Grant Schulte

Walz held the conference call from the Finnish capital of Helsinki, the latest stop on his European trade mission.

Malcolm previously said that she's ready to expand access to booster vaccines to all adults by the end of the week if the federal government doesn't act first.

Walz and Malcolm thanked Senator Amy Klobuchar for helping to secure the federal teams and said they hope more will be approved for other Minnesota hospitals, which have already applied for them.

Cerenity Senior Care-Marian of St. Paul will accept up to 27 patients from Twin Cities hospitals that are close to capacity.

Similar sites have already been set up at nursing homes in Brainerd and Shakopee to create additional transitional care beds, which are in short supply.

Walz renewed his calls for the Legislature to approve a series of proposals he made early last month to give hospitals and care centers more flexibility to cope with the surge.

A special session needed to pass that plan, plus $250 million in bonuses for frontline workers and drought aid for farmers, has been held up for months over a stalemate between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic governor, who insists that Republicans agree not to use the session to fire Malcolm, as some have threatened.

Minnesota Vaccines
The Department of Defense will be assisting two Minnesota hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Above, a box containing doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sits in the pharmacy after it was delivered to North Memorial Hospital on December 15, 2020, in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images