Minnesota officials assessing makeshift medical care sites across the state

With places like U.S. Bank Stadium sitting empty, the building is a potential place to set up hospital and clinic overflow as our health care system prepares for a surge of COVID-19 cases.

To accomplish that, Gov. Tim Walz says state officials are looking at creating makeshift medical care sites across the state.

“The Governor obviously wants us to approach this with a sense of urgency, which is why we’re working very urgently on this,” said Col. Ryan Kelly of the Minnesota National Guard.  

Kelly says his team, a group of medical professionals and the Army Corps of Engineers are using a Blackhawk helicopter to travel the state and tour potential locations.

“Buildings that have independent rooms is better than the big, open space,” he said. “We do have some options on big, open space if we need to use it.”

Kelly says the overflow spaces would likely be used to house non-COVID-19 patients, freeing up valuable hospital space, but he says that will all depend on what different areas might need.

“These spaces may vary from region to region,” he said. “Sites in the metro might look much different than sites in rural areas.”

Kelly says his team has assessed seven different facilities and identified five of them as viable options.

Minnesota Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly confirmed that his team has already found space for about 600 beds. He did not disclose where yet.

The goal is to create space for 2,000 people, including 750 hospital beds. 1,000 of those spaces would be in the Twin Cities metro area.

“We need to finish the planning for the alternate care sites now and be ready to immediately when the demand approaches,” said Joe Kelly.

Once the locations are identified, state officials will be monitoring cases and hospital capacity to decide if they need to start setting up these spaces. From there, the National Guard, along with other state leaders, will have to find the equipment and staff to get these places up and running. It’s something they say will be the next big challenge.

The state is trying to get to 2,000 ICU beds and ventilators, health officials said Tuesday. Right now, there are about 1,250 available ventilators and roughly 500 ICU beds total across the state.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said hospitals are “definitely on track to expand the number of ICU beds.”

The Health Department has increased the number of open beds from 235 last week to about 260 now.