Minnesota National Guard Set to Help Nursing Home Staffs Overwhelmed Amid COVID Surge

The Minnesota National Guard will deploy 400 members to aid nursing home staffs overwhelmed amid the surge in COVID cases, Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday.

Next week, the Guard members will train in teams as certified nursing assistants and temporary nursing aides then help chosen facilities for up to three weeks at a time, according to The Associated Press.

"Our long-term care facilities are facing an all-hands-on-deck moment, and that's why we are taking unprecedented action to support skilled nursing workers, residents and patients," Walz said in a statement.

Last week, Walz also announced the Department of Defense will send medical teams to Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital to help doctors and nurses during the COVID surge. They are expected to start working in the hospitals this week.

Minnesota is one of the nation's current hotspots for COVID infections. The state is averaging 4,225 new cases of COVID daily, with 1,523 people hospitalized and 23 deaths a day, The New York Times reported.

Employees are being overworked while beds continue to fill up. Patients who don't need intensive care but are not yet ready to go home are having difficulty being placed because of staffing shortages at nursing homes.

On Friday, Walz announced that COVID booster shots are now available to all fully-vaccinated adults to combat the surge, according to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. Walz has also suggested funneling $50 million of federal COVID relief money towards nursing facilities to help hire and keep staff. A legislative commission is currently looking over the request for approval needed to disseminate the money.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Minnesota, COVID Surge, Tim Walz, Reinforcements
Minnesota is currently one of the nation's worst COVID hotspots, with an average of 4,225 new cases a day. In this photo, notes indicating the patient has a "do not resuscitate" order are written on the window of a patient's room in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Three Rivers Asante Medical Center on September 9, 2021 in Grants Pass, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

"We are facing unprecedented, record-level workforce shortages in long-term care communities across our state," Patti Cullen, president and CEO of the industry group Care Providers of Minnesota, said in Walz's statement. "The actions the Governor is taking today will provide emergency staffing assistance to the exhausted professional caregivers who have been on the frontlines for over 20 months, and we are so appreciative for this much-needed good news."

Gayle Kvenvold, president and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota, another industry group, said the state currently has 23,000 open long-term caregiver positions, and that providers can't fix the shortage by themselves.

"We are grateful for these emergency actions and the collaborative efforts they represent. They provide critical support for weary caregivers and the seniors they serve and provide a bridge to more permanent solutions to address staffing shortages," Kvenvold said in the statement.

Minnesota National Guard, Nursing Homes, COVID Surge
Along with the Minnesota National Guard, the Department of Defense will send medical teams to aid doctors and nurses at two prominent hospitals in Minnesota. In this photo, members of the National Guard stand guard outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 20, 2021. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images