Local Healthcare Officials Prepare for Increased Covid Cases as System Reaches Capacity

Local Healthcare Officials Prepare for Increased Covid Cases as System Reaches Capacity

January 3, 2021 – Local officials urge Cook County and Grand Portage residents to keep local healthcare capacity in mind when making plans. Local healthcare resources are strained at this time and a fresh surge of COVID cases driven by the Omicron variant is expected to cause further stress.

“I worry about what will happen if more local residents get severely ill,” stated Kimber Wraalstad, CEO of North Shore Health. Wraalstad noted that the regional and national shortage of hospital beds and ICU beds affect the ability to offer care locally and impact the ability to receive care whether from COVID or because a heart attack, a need for surgery or other medical need. “We do not have ICU or surgical care locally. We are doing everything in our power to get sick patients transferred to the care they need. The community should be aware that the system is overwhelmed everywhere.”

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic CEO Kate Surbaugh concurs, “Our local healthcare system is small, and there are only so many providers. We are already stretched thin. When our physicians are attending multiple sick hospital patients, fewer clinic visits are available. We have plans in place to ensure care for urgent needs, while non-urgent care may have to wait, it is possible appointments may need to be rescheduled.” Surbaugh further noted that healthcare staff will be affected by illness, daycare closures and other consequences of a COVID surge.

“While it’s distressing to hear about another COVID surge, there are things that individuals can do to protect our community,” noted Grace Grinager, Cook County Public Health Supervisor. “Even if you think you’re already being very careful, adding just one more measure can make a difference.”

Local healthcare officials urge you to:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted against COVID
  • Stay home when you are sick and get tested
  • Keep gatherings small and outdoors
  • Correctly and consistently wear a high-quality mask indoors in spaces where others are present, such as churches and businesses
  • Prepare for healthcare delays:
    • Expect to leave a message when calling the clinic, hospital or public health office
    • Allow extra time for things like prescription refills or office visits
    • Be aware that non-urgent services may be canceled or delayed
    • Please be kind to healthcare staff – they have worked hard for two years to keep you safe!

Please note that we continue to work to improve access to both over the counter antigen tests as well as timely vaccination opportunities in our community.  Visit for the latest information on COVID-19 in Cook County including information on local testing options, vaccine registration, as well as to find links to information on COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).



Grace Grinager, Cook County Public Health Supervisor, 218-387-3620,

Kimber Wraalstad, North Shore Health CEO, 218-387-3260,

Kate Surbaugh, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic CEO, 218-387-2330 x159,

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