MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota is taking more steps to fight this latest COVID-19 surge. Hospitalizations are at another high at a time when space and staffing are low.

On Friday, state health leaders will announce a number of new measures to tackle hospital capacity worries.

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Hospitals like North Memorial Medical Center are treating COVID-19 patients as case numbers continue to climb around the state. Currently, the Delta variant is surging. Total ICU bed usage among COVID-19 patients was recently reported at 255. Additionally, there are currently 728 COVID-19 patients being hospitalized in non-ICU beds.

For the last weeks, daily reports from the Minnesota Department of Health have included double-digit figures when it comes to new deaths due to COVID. On Wednesday, for example, the state added 25 new deaths to the overall toll. The MDH reports none of those who died were vaccinated. The rate of deaths being reported is roughly double what it was a month ago.

Gov. Tim Walz said he wants to see waivers for hospitals, nursing homes and child care centers, and he wants testing and vaccine requirements for teachers and school staff and long-term care workers.

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In addition to addressing hospital capacity limits, the governor plans to announce an expansion of the state’s rapid testing network.

“We’re going to massively expand our testing capability across Minnesota again. We built the strongest testing system in the country; we’ll reinstitute that,” Walz said. “And then we are in the final stages of all preparation — which we anticipate the word will come last week of October, first week of November — where our 5- to 11-year-olds will be able to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and that will relieve some of the pressure.”

Walz will speak on the efforts later Friday morning.

Minnesota is reporting nearly 20,000 cases for the second week in a row. The only time things were worse was last November before vaccines were available.

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Shayla Reaves