More than 900 employees at Mayo Clinic, a top research hospital that is based in Rochester, Minnesota, have contracted Covid-19 in the last two weeks.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Dr Amy Williams, dean of clinical practice at the hospital, said that the vast majority of staff who were infected – 93% – were not infected at work, according to the St Paul Pioneer Press. Most of those who were infected at work contracted the virus while eating without a mask during their breaks, Williams said.
The hundreds of employees who have contracted the virus over the last two weeks make up over a third of all employees who were infected since the start of the pandemic. The hospital is experiencing a shortage of 1,000 employees at its headquarters in Rochester, according to the Pioneer Press.
“It shows you how easy it is to get Covid-19 in the midwest,” Williams said during a press call. “Our staff are being infected mostly due to community spread, and this impacts our ability to care for patients.”
The hospital did not say whether any of those infected had died from the virus. Lost on the Frontline, a joint effort by the Guardian and Kaiser Health News, is investigating the deaths of 1,396 healthcare workers who appear to have died of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Covid-19 cases have been rising across the country as the dreaded winter surge in cases has arrived. Yesterday, 161,000 new cases in the US were reported, and 76,830 people were reported to be currently hospitalized with the virus across the country.
Minnesota has seen a particularly alarming spike in cases over the last few weeks. The seven-day moving average for new cases in the state was 7,402 on Tuesday, the highest it has been in the state, according to Johns Hopkins University. The governor is anticipated to enact new restrictions on social gatherings and businesses such as bars and restaurants amid the influx.
Williams emphasized that hospitals in the midwest were “really stretched” and “many are absolutely full”. The Mayo hospital in Rochester has filled all of the 32 ICU beds it designated for Covid-19 patients. “We have 32 Covid patients needing tertiary care” – meaning sophisticated specialty care – “and that’s not good. It tells us we’re in a surge.”