ST. PAUL — In a troubling development in the pursuit of spreading out coronavirus-related intensive care unit use over time, the number of Minnesotans hospitalized for COVID-19 in an ICU setting jumped 50% on Monday, March 30, from 16 to 24.
The number of patients hospitalized for the illness jumped nearly 50 % on one day as well, from 39 to 56.
With the the prioritizing of tests clouding the state's ability to gain a clear picture of how widespread the illness has become, hospitalization and especially ICU utilization for coronavirus have become two of the few ironclad metrics that have not been suppressed by a national shortage of testing materials like swabs and reagents.
Moreover, the availability of an ICU bed is considered a primary driver of survival from coronavirus. Vast expanses of the state have no ICU beds, however, a resource-distribution challenge now being addressed by an emergency private-public health care initiative busily creating a unified database of resources for the expected peak in cases.
At eight new cases, Monday's rise in ICU patients remains low in absolute numbers. But the 50% relative rate jump is the highest yet, and unsustainable in the long term. Above and beyond those used for other health conditions, Minnesota has just 243 available ICU beds, according to state health officials.
The climb in ICU cases came on top of another record one-day jump in new cases, as the state added 73 more confirmed cases and one death, bringing the state total to 576 confirmed cases and 10 deaths. No information was immediately available on the location or age of the 10th person to have died from the virus, but officials in Martin County have reported a second death there, a man in his 80s who lived in a specialty nursing congregate living facility.
In a separate worrying trend, at an afternoon press conference with Gov. Tim Walz, state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there are 31 congregate living elderly care facilities with at least one case of coronavirus, albeit the vast majority of which are facilities with just one case.
Health officials said Monday that 157, or nearly one-in-four of the state's 576 confirmed cases, have been diagnosed in health care workers, a figure that is partly a reflection of the focus on health care workers in state and private testing.
While tensions remain high among health care workers and their families over the potential of becoming exposed to the virus on the job, health officials said the illness was believed to have been passed from a patient to a health care worker in just two instances.
"The vast majority of exposures among health care workers have continued to occur outside of the healthcare setting," said Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann.
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MDH COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.