Mayo Clinic: 905 staff diagnosed with COVID in past 2 weeks

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks from the Governor's Reception room at the State Capitol, to discuss the latest steps in his response to COVID-19, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — More than 900 staff members in the Mayo Clinic Health System in the Midwest have been diagnosed with COVID-19 over the last two weeks as the virus continues to surge across the region, officials said.

Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, said Tuesday that the 905 newly diagnosed employees account for 30% of all staff that have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began. And 93% of those with the coronavirus were exposed in the community, not at work, she said.

“It shows how widely spread this is in our communities and how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the communities here in the Midwest,” she said.

In total, about 1,500 Mayo Clinic staff are out due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure, Williams said. That number has been roughly unchanged over the last week, as some staff have returned while others go out.

The health system has Midwest locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, but didn’t specify where the affected employees were located.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials have been urging people to stay home as the virus soars across the state. On Wednesday, Walz announced a four-week shutdown of several businesses and activities, including inside dining at bars and restaurants, fitness centers and organized amateur sports.

Walz said the restrictions are necessary to protect a health care system that is at a breaking point statewide. While the state has built up its bed capacity and supplies of personal protective equipment since the lockdown, he said, doctors, nurses and other care staff are now increasingly falling ill because of community spread.

“I understand it’s not easy and it’s not fair,” Walz said Wednesday. “But it’s a sacrifice that we need to make. If we don’t do that, and we continue to spread, we will with absolute certainty put our hospitals at risk, and those that need the care, as well as the care providers.”

The announcement came on a day when Minnesota recorded a record 67 new COVID-19-related deaths, pushing the state’s toll to 3,010. The Minnesota Department of Health also reported 5,102 confirmed new cases, rising the state’s total to 242,053. State officials said they expected to top 300,000 cases sometime next week.

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