By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – More than 900 Mayo Clinic staff in Minnesota and Wisconsin have contracted COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

According to Dr. Amy Williams, Executive Dean for Practice at Mayo, 93% of the cases are due to community spread. The other 7% are getting the virus at work, but not from the patients. Instead, staff contract it when they “let their guard down” in the break room or the cafeteria when they eat or take off their mask.

As a result of COVID cases and quarantines, the Mayo health system is experiencing a staff shortage of 1,500 people. This impacts sites in Rochester in addition to locations in greater Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,981 Mayo employees have been diagnosed with the disease. The 905 additional cases in the past two weeks make up 30% of the total.

“There are three things you need to take care of any patient, but especially a patient with COVID-19 because they need very specialized care. You need space, supplies, and staff,” said Williams. “What we are worried about is staff, because we see our staff being exposed and getting COVID-19, mostly in the community.”

In the past several weeks, community spread has increased dramatically in Minnesota, mostly derived from social gatherings inside homes, weddings, and young people going out to bars and restaurants. On Wednesday night, Gov. Tim Walz is expected to close restaurants, gyms, and pause youth sports to curb the ongoing spread.

MORE: Gov. Walz To Close Gyms, Halt Indoor Dining And Pause Youth Sports This Weekend

The rate of COVID-related hospitalizations in Minnesota has also never been higher. The state is reporting 27 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents as of Nov. 9. Eight hospitalizations per 100,000 residents is considered a “high risk” status.

“We are seeing more and more patients transferred from outside of our typical area, which just tells us that hospitals elsewhere in Minnesota and surrounding states are overwhelmed because of this surge,” said Williams.

As of Wednesday, there are 355 people with COVID in ICU beds across the state, taking up 30% of the ICU beds that are currently in use.

RELATED: Mayo Clinic Says Its Hospital Beds/ICU Units Are Full In NW Wisconsin, 50% Of ICU Patients Have COVID

In response, Mayo Clinic is increasing the number of ICU beds at St. Marys Campus in Rochester.

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