Local hospitals see steady COVID-19 increase, fear 'perfect storm' of patients

Updated: October 15, 2020 07:59 PM

Duluth hospitals say they are seeing a steady, sustained increase in COVID-19 patients. And they fear it's setting them up for a perfect storm this winter. 


"We have been running I would say at capacity for several weeks now," Dr. Nick Van Deelen, Chief Medical Officer for St. Luke's, said. "Most of those people are non-COVID patients, but we know with the increased numbers of COVID patients in the region, it's an additional challenge to our ability to manage those. So we are actively looking at our system and trying to identify ways to be more efficient running at capacity." 

Dr. John Pryor at Essentia Health said they are in a good spot right now, but it changes on an hour-by-hour basis. He's concerned about patients who have been reluctant to come in for care during the pandemic. 

"We're treating more strokes than ever before," Pryor said. "Patients have delayed care for too long. Rest assured, our hospitals and clinics are safe."

They continue to preach a preventative message, saying this disease is unpredictable. 

"People are catching this at smaller gatherings. We know that large gatherings are a risk. We know that any gatherings are a risk," Dr. Andrew Thompson, infectious disease specialist at St. Luke's, said. "But it's those interactions that you have with people that aren't a part of your household. They might be closer, and if you're unmasked, present a higher risk."

"Our positivity rate that go through our testing facilities is like 15%. So if you have symptoms, the odds are only 15% are positive. When this started, it was under 1%," Essentia Health Dr. Rajesh Prabhu said. "And that's a reflection of how much more COVID is in the Northland." 

They say masking, hand washing and distancing are still the best policies. 

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