Do you remember how COVID-19 impacted your holidays last year?
Chances are this year is looking a little more normal — family gatherings, sporting events, shopping and all the other things we love about this time of year. But normal is far from reality in our hospitals and clinics. After weeks of increasing infections, Minnesota now has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the nation.
Almost 2 million people around our state haven't been vaccinated yet. If you aren't vaccinated against COVID-19, your chances of contracting it are five times higher. Your chances of it putting you in the hospital are 10 times higher. And the chances it will kill you? Ten times higher than someone who's been vaccinated.
But here's the thing: The care teams in our hospitals and intensive-care units crowded with COVID-19 patients don't work with statistics. They care for people. COVID-19 has killed 9,000 people in Minnesota alone. And the delta variant is harming those who are younger and healthier. We're seeing an increase in 30- to 50-year-olds hospitalized and on ventilators because of COVID-19 and many others who will suffer long term health effects as they recover. Children are being hospitalized too.
This must stop. Our care teams are tired of seeing what COVID-19 is doing to our patients, and we don't want it to happen to you or a loved one. We don't want you or a loved one to get sick, suffer and die when we know it can be prevented. We don't want you or a loved one to wait in an emergency room when you need urgent care.
After 21 months of the pandemic, our doctors and nurses are as determined as ever, but they are tired and overwhelmed, and so are the team members who support them. They're heartbroken from seeing so many preventable deaths. Some are so exhausted that they are leaving the profession because they do not see an end in sight. And now it's not just those with COVID-19 — patients with urgent medical needs like heart disease, cancer or even gall bladder surgery are waiting days in emergency rooms or hallways for a hospital bed to open up.
Our care team doesn't have any interest in the division that's surrounded so many aspects of the pandemic. It doesn't matter how patients vote or what they believe. We're here for everyone and committed to caring for all. Our care teams just want to use their skills, experience and passion to help people be and stay well.
We need help, and we need everyone to step up and get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are the most-researched vaccines in history. They are safe — with billions of doses now having been administered. They are effective — not 100%, but then no vaccine is. Our medical experts have high demands for proof, and our doctors sized it up and got the shot themselves.
What we want is to get to the other side of the pandemic safely. So, get vaccinated and show our care teams that you value their efforts to keep you healthy. We want you to be able to spend the holidays surrounded by those you love — all of them — vaccinated.
Andrea Walsh is president and CEO, HealthPartners.