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Defense Department will help relieve 2 Minnesota hospitals

Steve Karnowski
Associated Press

Minneapolis — The Department of Defense will send medical teams to two major Minnesota hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses who've been swamped by a growing wave of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.

The teams, with 22 people each, will arrive at Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital next week and begin treating patients immediately, Walz said in a conference call from the Finnish capital of Helsinki. the latest stop on his European trade mission.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announces measures on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, to use the Minnesota National Guard to alleviate staffing shortages at health care facilities that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 surge. The governor spoke outside North Memorial Health Hospital in the Minneapolis suburb of Robbinsdale.

Minnesota has become one of the country's worst hotspots for new COVID-19 infections. Hospital beds are filling up with unvaccinated people, and staffs are being worn down by the surge. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday 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.

The governor also announced that a third skilled-nursing facility has agreed to serve as a "hospital decompression" site for patients who no longer need acute hospital care but aren't ready to go home. Cerenity Senior Care-Marian of St. Paul will accept up to 27 patients from Twin Cities hospitals that are close to capacity.

Ten nurses from the federal Public Health Service and 15 nursing assistants from the Minnesota National Guard and private vendors will provide transitional care. 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