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Minnesota Calls Up National Guard as Covid-19 Overwhelms Hospitals

Minnesota National Guard service members are trained on November 18, 2021.

Minnesota National Guard service members are trained on November 18, 2021.
Photo: Sgt. Bob Brown/Minnesota National Guard

The governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, has called up the National Guard to assist long term care facilities, as the state struggles with a huge surge in covid-19 hospitalizations that has overwhelmed the health care system.

Roughly 400 members of the National Guard have been training over the past week as certified nursing assistants and temporary nursing aides and will be deployed primarily to nursing homes in an effort to shore up staff. The members of the National Guard are expected to help out for at least three weeks, according to Fox 9.

Minnesota hospitals are currently taking care of 1,414 patients with covid-19 and 340 in the ICU, according to the latest numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health. Only 2% of the state’s ICU beds are available, with 56 Minnesota hospitals reporting they have absolutely no capacity to take ICU patients.

Minnesota reported 4,714 new covid-19 cases on Monday and 37 new deaths, significant figures for a state of only 5.6 million people. Just 62% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, above the national average of 59.2%, but still low compared to the vaccination rates of other wealthy countries.

Nationwide, the U.S. reported 158,867 new covid-19 cases on Monday and 1,235 new deaths, with the head of the CDC warning on Monday that case counts are going to climb in the dead of winter.

“Heading into the winter months, when respiratory viruses are more likely to spread, and with plans for increased holiday season travel and gatherings, boosting people’s overall protection against covid-19 disease and death was important to do now,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.

Walensky noted that covid-19 patients who require hospitalization are still overwhelmingly the unvaccinated, with those who haven’t gotten the shot 14 times more likely to die from the disease.

Minnesota has one of the highest covid-19 rates in the country right now relative to population size, leading many in the state to wonder what they’re doing wrong. Sadly, the answer is simple. There aren’t enough people getting vaccinated, largely for political reasons. Roughly 9% of Democrats say they don’t plan to get vaccinated against covid-19, while a whopping 38% of Republicans say they don’t want to be vaccinated, according to the latest figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Our force is highly adaptive and with training will assist Minnesota’s healthcare community in responding to healthcare staffing shortages,” Army Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, the Minnesota National Guard’s Adjutant General, said in a statement published online.

“One of the Minnesota National Guard’s pillars is people as they are our most valuable resource,” Manke continued.

“We acknowledge that we share this resource with employers, and we know these activations can disrupt their businesses and organizations. We appreciate the employers of our citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, as we could not conduct our federal, state, and community missions without their support.”