By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The people in charge of some of Minnesota’s hospitals are begging families to cooperate with the new rules to fight COVID-19.

“We are perilously close to not being able to, even collectively with all of our best efforts and innovative care models, take care of everybody,” said Dr. Peggy Wheeler, the CEO of Allina Health.

Wheeler says 800 staff members can’t work because they either have the virus or were exposed to it.

A nurse who works at Allina’s United Hospital in St. Paul called what’s to come a “doomsday scenario.”

Another Allina nurse, Kristin Kleinschmidt, says she’s never seen anything like what’s happening in her 31 years as a nurse. She says staffing shortages are leading to nurses having to double up on their duties, and she hasn’t been able to help either. Kleinschmidt has been out for two weeks with COVID.

“Feels terrible to be at home sick,” Kleinschmidt said. “I got so tired I couldn’t get out of bed, and next day I couldn’t taste anything.”

She thought her early symptoms were a result of fatigue after a long shift, so she continued to work and says she likely exposed her co-workers.

The United nurse says the same goes for her when she had COVID. She asked to remain anonymous so she could speak more freely about United’s current situation.

“We’re having a huge increase in nurses with actual COVID,” she said. “I had COVID. I’m just recovering and back to work.”

She says there have been times she’s seen more than five-hour waits in her ER, in part because there aren’t enough hospital beds.

Looking at Minnesota overall, capacity is not as urgently dire an issue. Earlier this week, about one in every four ICU beds in the state were available. The same number of non-ICU beds were also available.

The metro though has less than 10% of its critical care beds available. The same goes for the northeast, central and southeast parts of the state.

“Everybody’s scared of what’s to come. Very scared,” the United nurse said.

David Schuman

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