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Walz announces plan to help hospitals, launch new testing opportunities

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 6:09 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2021 at 6:51 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) - Gov. Tim Walz has put the National Guard on alert to provide staffing support at Minnesota’s long-term care facilities.

It’s part of the state’s plan to assist hospitals amid rising COVID-19 cases.

On Friday, Walz joined health officials like Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm to announce a plan to address hospital capacity concerns and expand the state’s COVID-19 rapid testing network.

“One of the things we need to continue to understand is when we started this COVID pandemic, we talked about my top priority and the state of Minnesota’s top priority was the protection and the health and well-being of Minnesotans. One of the surest ways we did that was to ensure that hospital capacity always remained strong,” Walz said.

“These capacity challenges that you’ve heard about are very, very real, and the tight capacity is very real all over the state,” Malcolm added.

To help overcrowded hospitals, Walz said that he is looking to free up capacity at Minnesota’s long-term care facilities.

The National Guard will be put on alert to providing staffing support at facilities in the state.

He also plans to expand access to the COVID-19 emergency staffing pool, which allows long-term care facilities to request temporary staffing during a shortage due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Throughout this pandemic, the State of Minnesota had a set-up pool that was basically a quick reaction strike force team that when we would get an outbreak in a long-term care facility, especially amongst the staff and they couldn’t come in, they would literally call us at midnight and say there’s going to be no one here to care for the patients in the morning because we have no staff to come in. We would drop these teams in and we would coordinate to make that happen. We have the infrastructure to do that again,” said Walz.

Friday, Walz also announced he is expanding rapid testing options for Minnesotans; he will activate the National Guard to start a new Community Rapid Testing Program.

These sites will allow Minnesotans with COVID-19 symptoms to take an antigen test and receive results in minutes.

Sites will initially be launched in Stillwater, Hutchinson and Crookston, with at least three more sites launching next week.

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