Minnesota Guard members deploy to first three care facilities

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday sent the first three Minnesota National Guard skilled nursing teams to care facilities statewide on Monday in an effort to fix staffing woes amid the current wave of COVID-19 infections.

Guard members will deploy to long-term care facilities in New Hope, Onamia, and Fergus Falls. About 400 Guard members have been trained as certified nursing assistants and temporary nursing aides.

National Guard members are also providing support at six COVID-19 testing sites, bringing the total number of Guard members supporting COVID-19 response to nearly 600.

"Our citizen Soldiers and Airmen are part of your community, we live here, we work here, and more than ever over the last year and a half, we continue to serve here. To the members of the Minnesota National Guard, thank you for continuing to serve professionally and with dignity and respect," Army Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke said in a news release.

Meanwhile, Walz on Monday also announced plans to recruit and train at least 1,000 certified nursing assistants to deploy to long-term care facilities by the end of January.

The governor also announced the opening of a fourth alternative care site this week for hospitals to send non-critical patients in order to free up space as the current surge in virus infections continues to strain hospital capacity statewide. The site in Hastings will accept up to 17 patients from Twin Cities-area hospitals.