MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care continues to climb, Minnesota Department of Health officials say it’s partly due to loosening restrictions on elective procedures.

The Department of Health reports 258 patients are currently in the ICU with the coronavirus.

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“What we’ve seen and heard about the deferred important procedures being done is part of what’s showing up in the ICU numbers after complex surgeries,” said Jan Malcolm Department of Health Commissioner.

State health officials said the ICU capacity in the Twin Cities was at 87%.

“For comparison it isn’t unusual for ICU beds to be 95% full in flu season. That said, we are keeping a close eye on this to address issues as they arise,” said Kris Ehresmann Infectious Disease Division Director.

On Friday, white house coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, named Minnesota as a top state with “significant virus” in circulation.

She says Minneapolis has the fourth highest positivity rate in a metro area, behind Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Chicago.

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“So these are the places we have seen a stalling or an increase in cases as in Minneapolis,” Birx said.

State health officials were not surprised.

They said up until this weekend testing had been focused on areas they anticipated positive cases, like long term care facilities.

MDH officials are preparing alternative hospitalizations sites that could be ready to go within 72 hours if there is an ICU bed shortage, but now stadiums are a last resort.

“Now we’ve got some guidance on how much surge capacity is possible,” Malcolm said.

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Kate Raddatz