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Duluth hospitals create COVID unit as cases continue to rise

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DULUTH, MN-- Duluth area hospitals are preparing for an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations as cases continue to rise in the Northland.

St. Louis County announced 320 new COVID cases today which is the highest single-day total so far.

In the last two days, 60% of the cases have come from the Duluth area.

Essentia Health and St. Luke's hospital both announced they would start a COVID-19 wing in each hospital.

The wings are meant to help isolate COVID-19 patients from the rest of the hospital.

Essentia Health officials announced the start of their wing last week but no word on how many beds would be in the wing.

St. Luke's said they would be creating their COVID-19 unit with 40 new beds.

They will also be adding 24 new beds to their ICU unit, as they are seeing hospitalizations at a higher level due to COVID-19 patients.

Health officials emphasized the importance for everyone to keep practicing safety guidelines.

"We need to reverse the trends so that our friends and neighbors can stay healthy. And hospitals won't be pushed beyond their limits," said Dr. Nick Van Deelen, St. Luke's Chief Medical Officer.

Both hospitals have been bringing transported patients to their ICU units from other hospitals, those patients have ranged from the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Both hospitals have also transported patients to their smaller facilities.

Adding they're transporting patients with less severe illnesses so they make room for those with more serious illnesses who need more round the clock care saying many could be coming from Twin Cities hospitals.

But it has been a challenge.

Dr. Jon Pryor, President of Essentia Health East Market, "We fluctuate on an hourly and day by day basis. So, one day we're full to the brim, then two days later we've got space in med-surge and ICU."

Meanwhile, both hospitals have moved elective procedures and surgeries out of the hospitals' main operating rooms and to other day surgery centers.

County health officials believe part of the uptick in cases is due to Halloween festivities.

They are asking everyone to think twice about the upcoming holiday season.

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Emma Quinn

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