Itasca County hospitals out of space for critical patients as COVID surges

Itasca County health officials are urging residents to take COVID-19 precautions seriously as facilities have reached capacity for critical patients.

The northern Minnesota county's health and human services said there are no open beds for critical patients as of Friday and nowhere to send those who need one. Local facilities are trying to find solutions but are becoming more overrun with high levels of patients who need intensive care due to COVID.

"The community needs to know that this has never been more serious," Kelly Chandler of Itasca County Public Health said in a press release. "We are at the crisis levels of 2020, but without the same levels of COVID precautions in place." 

Health providers in Itasca County are urging people to stay healthy, especially amid deer hunting season, recent snowfall, and approaching holidays.

"For your own sakes, dig out your masks and limit your exposure to groups, especially indoors. Go back to social distancing. And definitely get your COVID vaccine and flu shot if you haven’t already—you are far less likely to need an ICU bed if you do," Chandler said.

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Officials are anticipating a high-risk November, likely surpassing last year's peak levels. In the last week, there were 318 new COVID infections in Itasca County, and a woman in her 70s died, bringing the total deaths from COVID in the county to 91.

Any residents with questions or concerns can contact the Itasca COVID line number at 218-327-6784. Calls will be returned 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.