COVID-19 cases spiked in November and have been steadily declining, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Mike Youso, administrator at Essentia-Health Moose Lake and Essentia-Health Sandstone said he noticed the trend at both hospitals. He said he is glad that the Moose Lake Hospital partnered with Essentia last August because being a part of the larger facility offers more access to resources then the hospital had prior to the partnership. 

“We did have a surge. We were at capacity off and on for about three to four weeks,” Youso said.

Youso said both hospitals were at peak capacity 75% of the time. He said about 30% of the patients were COVID-19 positive. He explained there has been a shortage of medical staff long before the pandemic hit. “We have been short staffed, that’s not new,” Youso said. “COVID-19 has magnified the shortage.” He said the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) were the most stressed of the staff.

“They have done a phenomenal job,” Youso said.

He said even though the hospitals were at capacity, it may not mean all of the beds were full. The Sandstone location has nine beds and Moose Lake has 25. “We need to have enough staff to manage the beds,” Youso explained.

While there was a COVID-19 surge, Youso said it was similar to the usual influenza peak at both hospitals every winter. The difference is the severity of the symptoms seen with COVID-19. “The common flu can be deadly,” Youso said. 

According to the MDH, there were 4,022 people confirmed positive for influenza hospitalized in Minnesota from Sept. 29, 2019 to May 16, 2020. There were 197 influenza deaths and three deaths in children under 18 years old.

As of Jan. 11, 2020 there have been 22,541 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases hospitalized in Minnesota and 5,779 deaths, according to MDH. 

Closer to home, Pine County had 2,479 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths. Carlton County had 2,385 cases and 41 deaths. Pine County has a population of 29,483 as of 2018 and Carlton County has 35,871 as of 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Youso said he hopes that the pandemic will fade away when people get the vaccine in coming months. 

He said the staff that interacts with patients such as doctors and nurses are at the top tier for vaccines. Staff at both hospitals have received their first dose of the vaccine, although about 30% of the hospital staff declined to take the vaccine. Those that did receive the vaccine did not have significant reactions, according to Youso.  The second dose will be administered in the next few weeks at both hospitals.

“Hopefully the peak is behind us,” Youso said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

By the numbers according to the MDH:


Influenza, Sept. 29-May 16, 2020

Total hospitalized- 4,022

Influenza deaths- 197

Pediatric influenza caused deaths-3 

Past years hospitalized, deaths

2015-2016-1,538 - 76

2016-2017- 3,695 - 273

2017-2018- 6,446 - 440

2018-2019- 3,543 - 95

COVID-19 numbers:

Total hospitalized- 22,541

Confirmed deaths in Minnesota as of Jan. 11- 5,579
Highest age group of deaths- 85-89 - 1,075
Confirmed COVID-19 deaths age 0-24  -  4

Local numbers:

Pine County total confirmed cases - 2,479

Total deaths - 3

Population as of 2018 - 29,483 

Carlton County total- 2,385

Deaths - 41

Population as of 2019 - 35,871

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