By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hospitals across the state are making a desperate plea for the public’s help as COVID-19 cases hit an all-time high this year.

It’s considered Minnesota’s fourth wave in the ongoing battle against the virus. But hospital beds are filling up in places they never did before.

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As WCCO explains why finding a bed is growing more difficult by the day.

Katie Kruzel, an registered nurse at CentreCare in Saux Centre. doesn’t sugarcoat the situation.

“It’s really hard right now,” Kruzel said, adding: “It’s tough, because it’s a lot of preventable illness.”

Surrounded by counties lagging behind in vaccination rates, CentraCare’s eight hospitals are pleading with the public to get the shot, to social distance and mask up to protect against a more potent Delta variant.

For the last month, the hospital’s made room for twice as many patients as they typically see since other seasonal sickness hasn’t stopped.

Dr. Bret Haake, the chief medical officer at Regions Hospital, updated the situation at HealthPartners’ seven hospitals.

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“Increasingly tough to keep going after 20 months of this,” Haake said.

Some 148 patients are hospitalized for COVID at those hospitals. Up from 105 last week. The highest numbers since December.

“We are essentially at 100% capacity, we’ve been that way for weeks,” Haake said.

A domino effect, Haake explains, as staff shortages at nursing homes are keeping dozens hospitalized, and people who put off preventative care are also very sick now.

It’s all adding up to more patients than in the past.

“My advice to anyone going into the holidays is: For anyone that’s unvaccinated to get vaccinated. If I could wave a wand and have everybody [vaccinated] within a week, this would go away,” Haake said.

Both healthcare systems say that many workers have left due to the stress of the pandemic.

WCCO also checked on vaccine mandates: 99% of HealthPartners employees have either been vaccinated or approved for an exemption. CentraCare’s mandate doesn’t go into effect until mid-December.

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Liz Collin