MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the number of positive COVID-19 cases increases in Minnesota, metro area hospitals are getting ready for the most critical cases.

Dr. John Hicks, medical director at Hennepin Healthcare in downtown Minneapolis, is putting out a clear warning about COVID-19 for Minnesotans.

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“I have never been more concerned about anything than I am about this,” Hicks said. “In all honesty, if you’re young and healthy you probably are going to be just fine. But your mom, your dad, grandparents, other people are not going to be fine.”

Right now, the largest hospital in the metro is worried they won’t be able to keep up with the spread of this new virus

“There’s not a lot of room to accommodate a pandemic,” he said. “We have less than 5% of our intensive care unit beds available in the Twin Cities right now, that has been the case for months.”

(credit: HCMC)

To avoid a rapid spread, Dr. Hicks and infectious disease physician Caitlin Eccles-Radtke recommend practicing “social distancing.”

“We’re going to need everybody on deck. I think there’s not going to be one set hospital that does all the work because I think the resources will be exhausted,” Eccles-Radtke said.

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Hicks says staying away from large gatherings and events, as well decreasing face-to-face interactions, is key to mitigating the spread.

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“This honestly could be a very lonely next few months, you know, for all of us,” Hicks said. “But that’s in all of our best interest to keep the community safe. So as cases begin to escalate, we’ll need to make sure that we’re ready to separate ourselves a little bit, as individuals and as a community, and literally come together by separating.”

She says cancelling things now will “flatten the curve.”

One way Hennepin Healthcare is preparing to handle critical cases of COVID-19 is through negative pressure isolation rooms. They are used to contain patients with airborne infections.

The hospital is taking measures to make sure their staff stay healthy right now, including travel restrictions for health care workers and making all of their staff meetings virtual via Skype.

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Marielle Mohs