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ICUs full across Mayo Clinic Health System region

As COVID-19 rates have risen in the Midwest over the last few weeks, two things are perfectly clear — communities need to mask up and stay distanced, and hospitals are starting to feel the heat.

In a media Zoom call on Tuesday, Amy Williams, M.D., chairwoman of the Mayo Clinic Midwest Clinical Practice Committee, announced Mayo Clinic Health System has filled all 32 of its medical ICU beds across its system and is looking to add a dozen or so more beds to make room for COVID-19 patients.

“The bottom line is our hospitals are very busy and our health care workers are very busy,” Williams said. “We know much more than we did in the spring about how to treat patients, but we are seeing an increase. In order to treat our patients, we need staffings, space and supplies.”

Mayo’s staff is also starting to contract COVID-19, as 105 staff members have tested positive for the virus over the last two weeks. That is 30% of the total number of staff who have caught the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Williams said a large majority of those cases came from the community and the ones that happened within Mayo’s facilities took place while staff members were eating and not wearing masks.

Dr. Amy Williams

“We are very worried about our staff,” Williams said. “We normally have places they can call or teams they can call if they are not doing well due to stress. Those are still in place and we also have a new call line that they can use just to talk.”

After giving around 14,000 tests per week in the summer, Mayo is now giving 36,000 tests per week. Mayo also has more treatment options as monochromal antibodies will soon be available to anyone who contracts the virus and Remdesiver is being used for outpatient care.

Still, the best way to avoid the effects of COVID-19 is to take steps to avoid getting the virus.

“We need to remain vigilant. The most important thing that any of us can do to turn the tide in this pandemic is to mask, social distance and use hand hygiene,” Williams said. “There is no doubt that wearing a mask and that six feet is magical. You need to be at least six feet away from somebody in order to not get it. We know there are individuals within our community that don’t realize yet that they are shedding the COVID-19 virus. Please wear a mask and please social distance.”

Williams suggested everyone go out and get a flu shot, and she said she also wants the public to make sure they are not afraid to seek health care if they have issues that aren’t related to COVID-19.

“We’re here to help whoever needs help medically,” Williams said. “If you are sick, call your care team or seek help medically. Don’t delay your care.”

Pfizer and Moderna have both recently announced vaccines on the way that are in the 90 to 95% range of effectiveness. Those vaccines could be a game changer, but the pandemic isn’t likely to go away overnight.

“We cannot wait for a vaccine,” Williams said. “This will hopefully decrease hospitalizations, but we’re still going to need to mask, social distance and use hand hygiene for awhile.”