By WCCO-TV Staff

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has declared January “Health Care Month,” and the search is underway for thousands of people to join the state’s health care labor force as the pandemic nears its third year.

State leaders announced Monday the push to quickly get the unemployed, those looking for a career change, and students in high school and college into health care fields.

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Several state departments are getting involved in the effort, including the Department of Human Services (DHS), Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Health (MDH), Education (MDE) and the Office of Higher Education (OHE).

(credit: Nic Coury/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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“There are tens of thousands of open health care positions throughout Minnesota, at every level, in every setting and in every part of the state,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “Caring people are needed now more than ever to make a difference in the lives of others, and get started on a fulfilling, in-demand career path.”

The need for health care workers is greater than ever as burnout has caused thousands to leave their jobs over the course of the pandemic — leaving state hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities seriously understaffed.

Minnesota has seen a big surge in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant continues its spread, crowding hospitals and leading to dire shortages in ICU beds. More than a million Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19 since March of 2020, with more than 10,000 of those cases requiring ICU care.

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More than 10,000 Minnesotans have died so far during the pandemic.