By MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Over 900 Mayo Clinic staff in the Midwest have contracted COVID-19 in the past two weeks, officials said, as the region experiences a surge in cases.
The medical center is “very worried” about the health of its staff and having enough people to care for patients as health care professionals themselves become infected with the virus or have to quarantine due to exposure, Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of the Mayo Clinic Practice, said during a press call Tuesday.
In the last 14 days, 905 Mayo Clinic employees in the Midwest, including in Minnesota and Wisconsin, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, officials said. That number represents more than 30% of the total number of staff cases during the pandemic.
Most of the exposure — about 93% — happened in the community, not at work, Williams said.
“It shows how widely spread this is in our communities, and how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the communities here in the Midwest,” Williams said.
Across the Midwest, about 1,500 Mayo Clinic employees have work restrictions due to COVID-19 exposure, diagnosis or having to care for family members who are sick, officials said. About 1,000 of those are at the Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota.
To help with staffing shortages in the Midwest, the Mayo Clinic is recruiting health care workers back from recent retirement, bringing in staff from other sites (primarily Arizona), temporarily moving research nurses into patient care roles and reducing elective care to redeploy staff to COVID-19 patients, officials said.
Minnesota recorded a record number of hospitalizations on Wednesday, with 1,706, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The areas of the state bordering Wisconsin are also reporting over 85% usage of critical care beds at hospitals, according to an internal Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News Wednesday night.
Hospitalizations are only expected to increase in the coming weeks. In preparation, the Mayo Clinic Hospital’s Saint Marys Campus in Rochester is increasing the number of medical beds to care for patients with and without COVID-19, Williams said.
“We need to be very vigilant and not assume that things are going to settle down,” she said.
Amid rising cases and hospitalizations in the state, Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday announced new coronavirus restrictions.
Starting at 11:59 p.m. Friday and lasting for the next four weeks, all restaurants will be closed to in-person dining. Gyms and indoor entertainment venues will also be closed.
In-person social gatherings outside of the household are prohibited, as are weddings and private parties.
“We are at a breaking point,” Walz said in a statement. “As hospitals near the crisis of turning away new patients, continuing as things are is simply not sustainable.”
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