Hospital bed availability a concern in Minnesota as COVID-19 delta variant spreads

New data from Minnesota health officials shows hospital beds in the intensive care units are close to capacity, concerning frontline healthcare workers. 

Nurses say summer usually brings increased ICU capacity, but with the Delta variant spreading, many hospitals are nearing capacity. 

"It's concerning. A lot of us are still trying to recover from the last surge," said Eric Swanlund, a certified registered nurse anesthetist who works at hospitals throughout the state. 

Swanlund is a part of a specialized group of nurses responsible for getting breathing tubes down patients who are clinging on to life. 

As COVID-19 cases surge nationwide because of the Delta variant, the number of ICU beds available in hospitals is becoming scarce, concerning nurses like Swanlund. 

"The fear of another round of that I think would be devastating, and we could potentially lose even more nurses because it’s truly heartbreaking work," he said. 

In Minnesota, data shows nearly all of the state’s hospital beds are in use, forcing healthcare workers to make tough decisions on who is treated. 

"It’s concerning when we start to get close to filling up our ICU because then we have to take each case as a case by case…can we do this? Can we not do this?" 

While not all beds here in the state are full of COVID-19 patients, a majority are, which is why Swanlund said the best thing for people is to get vaccinated. 

"It’s really the best weapon we have in our arsenal," he said. "The vaccine isn’t the silver bullet, but it does keep you out of the ICU." 

State data shows that more than 8,600 hospital beds are currently in use, which is close to capacity. That includes patients currently in the ICU and not in the ICU.