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Duluth hospitals combat ‘unprecedented volumes’ of COVID-19 cases

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DULUTH, MN -- While the U.S. as a whole is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, that's not the case everywhere.

Minnesota reported 7,942 new COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths over the weekend.

In St. Louis County, 273 people tested positive over the weekend, and one person died from the virus.

Minnesota healthcare workers are confronting COVID-19's aggressive spread.

"While much of the country has seen a decrease in COVID transmission following the latest peak, there's more uncertainty here in St. Louis County," Dr. Anne Stephen, chief medical officer for Essentia Health’s East Market, said.

Essentia and St. Luke's in Duluth gave a coronavirus update Tuesday.

Hospital leaders said they are seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases and patients admitted to the hospital since peak numbers last winter.

Essentia Health systems across the state have 129 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Half of them are currently at St. Mary's in Duluth.

25% of Essentia ICU patients are there with COVID-19.

Most of them are not vaccinated.

St. Luke's representatives said 30% of their ICU patients have the virus.

"We are currently seeing unprecedented volumes within the emergency department, seeing very high volumes and persistent volumes day and night in both our ER and up at Essentia," Dr. Jonathan Shultz, emergency medicine physician at St. Luke's, said.

This influx of people seeking emergency care is straining the system, forcing patients to get treatment at other hospitals around the state.

Dr. Christina Bastin De Jong is a critical care physician at Essentia Health.

"Nobody wants to be hospitalized ever, especially when they have to be sent to a hospital system that is far away from family and friends," she said.

Bastin De Jong said the vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself and others from the virus.

"If you are unsure of the vaccine, make an appointment with your healthcare provider and have a one-on-one conversation with them about the vaccine and the benefits it provides," she said.

Less than 60% of the population in St. Louis County has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

Even though cases are decreasing nationwide, Minnesota is in the midst of a wave.

The Delta variant hit northern states later than other parts of the country.

Representatives from Essentia and St. Luke's also recommended wearing a mask indoors, even if you are vaccinated.

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Kendall Jarboe

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