MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some of Minnesota’s top doctors are headed into the new year with cautious optimism in the ongoing battle with COVID-19. WCCO checked in to see where the state stands now.

As medical incident commander for CentraCare’s COVID-19 response team, Dr. George Morris believes Minnesota’s pause and changes to holiday plans have made a difference.

“We are at a much better place than we were around Thanksgiving time,” Dr. Morris said.

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“We’re not normal yet, we’re still high. We’re probably about five to 10 times as high as we could be,” he added.

Dr. Morris says well-controlled is considered five to 10 new COVID cases per 10,000 people.

“We’re probably in that 40 to 50 range,” Dr. Morris said.

Still, the situation has greatly improved at CentraCare’s eight locations across Central Minnesota. More than 1,400 staff members were either sick with COVID in November or out due to an exposure. That’s down to 200.

“We continue to have new admissions for COVID, so people are still getting sick, so they’re still sick enough to be in our hospital and ICU. However, it’s much more manageable,” Dr. Morris said.

Dr. Bret Haake is Chief Medical Officer at Regions Hospital.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed optimistically that things stay good,” Haake said.

They are also feeling much better about hospital capacity and they believe the vaccine will keep more people at work.

“8,200 of our healthcare providers and workers in our Health partner’s system have been vaccinated. That’s going to make a big difference in regards to quarantines and exposures,” Dr. Haake said.

Another big difference? Both doctors say we need to stick to mask and social distancing plans, believing we are within a few months of real promise.

“With all of us working together, we can make 2021 a different year,” Dr. Morris said.

Liz Collin