Walz says nursing initiative will help with next COVID surge

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(KSTP) – Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says an initiative introduced in January to add 1,000 new certified nursing assistants in the state has surpassed its goal.

“The ability to quickly and efficiently stand up a program to make sure we had the capacity, especially with CNAs, I think was a great success story,” the governor said at a news conference at St. Paul College, where many of the CNAs are getting trained.

The governor’s goal of training 1,000 new CNAs was meant to ease the burden in hospitals, long-term care facilities and veterans’ homes. A shortage was being filled by activating the National Guard to help out.

So far, 940 have enrolled in free training courses and another 338 high school students are accessing training through their school districts. The cost of tuition, books, uniforms and fees are all covered by federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan.

Although hospitals and other facilities are no longer overwhelmed, the governor says it’s just a matter of time before another COVID surge. Despite that assessment from health experts, the governor says we are slowly moving from a pandemic to an endemic. He says future surges will be treated differently thanks to more nursing assistants and more people vaccinated.

“When we see another surge, this issue in those long-term care facilities won’t be the same crisis situation that we saw,” he said. “You can’t again be in that surge mode constantly. You have to be able to quickly able to adjust to it and quickly be able to drop down.”

Although the federal government funded the first $3.4 million dollars for the nurse training, the governor has proposed another $6.7 million in his two-year state budget to continue the program. He says there was a need for more certified nursing assistants before the pandemic and it will continue after the pandemic.