Local health experts weigh in on COVID-19 hospitalization trends

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(ABC 6 News) – The nation has been experiencing a surge this summer as the contagious Delta variant spreads and Minnesota is seeing a higher number of children being hospitalized for COVID-19.

Health experts in southeast Minnesota continue to monitor case numbers and hospitalizations with COVID-19. Mayo Clinic says it is a fluctuating number and that it’s hard to give an exact number of people who are currently hospitalized for COVID-19. Consistent with national findings, most hospitalized patients are unvaccinated and health experts are also seeing hospitalized patients are somewhat younger than in prior waves. That is raising hospital capacity concerns, but not so much here in southeastern Minnesota.

"We have some patients in the ICU but we’re certainly not full, the ICUs are not full of COVID-19 patients," Dr. Abinash Virk, infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic, said.

There are 18 ICUs in Rochester alone and they are not full. And as for children’s hospitalizations, they have been low in southeastern Minnesota.

"We do see children get sick and we’ve seen children hospitalized. Most recently over the last few weeks, we have seen a child that was hospitalized that had severe disease right here in Olmsted County," Graham Briggs, director of Olmsted County Public Health, said.

Olmsted Medical Center has only had two pediatric patients that have been hospitalized.

The trends of hospitalizations are what health experts are trying to map out.

"For example, you saw what happened in India and you saw what happened in the United Kingdom, the infections went up very rapidly, and then they actually did start to decrease even with Delta. But then there has again been a slight increase of infections in both of those countries. You know we’re one step behind them and we’re still going up and we will likely come down," Dr. Virk said.

But Dr. Virk said it’s not going to be a steep decline down to zero.

"It’s going to be a decline but probably you know up again and that’s what we’ll be watching both of infections and hospitalizations," she said.

Dr. Virk said the big difference between us and other countries that are seeing case numbers and hospitalizations decrease is that we’re going into the winter months.

"And what that means is that people are going to go indoors, people are going to spend more time together indoors, and we have less masking because there are no mask mandates and so what is that going to do to the epidemic? We don’t know," Dr. Virk said.

She said we are nowhere near where we were for hospitalizations last winter and we are not at a crisis point. Dr. Virk also adds that she and other health experts are all hoping that the trends will continue to go down and that we will be in a better place in a few months.