COVID-19 hospitalization surge: How hospitals in 5 states are responding

Thirty-nine states across the U.S. are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations, prompting many of the states and their hospitals to take steps to address the new surges and related bed and staffing shortages. 

Here is a breakdown of how hospitals in five states are responding:


Montana hospitals are working with the state to address staffing challenges that have emerged due to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The Montana Hospital Association and state said they are working to get a system in place for requesting and deploying surge teams. Some avenues discussed include the Montana Mutual Aid System, which recruits volunteers, as well as the deployment of the National Guard.

The hospital association said it is also looking for ways to reduce barriers that exist in training programs for certified nursing assistants to expand the available workforce.

Billings (Mont.) Clinic has brought on temporary staff and is asking its health system partners across Montana and Wyoming for help. 

North Dakota

North Dakota officials met with the leaders of Bismarck’s two largest hospitals to get a surge plan in place if hospitalizations continue to grow in the Bismarck-Mandan area, according to Valley News.

Sanford Health said it will announce a plan this week to increase bed capacity at the Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck. 

CHI St. Alexius Health said it has adjusted operations to accommodate a rise in patients who have COVID-19 and those who don’t at its facility and that it will work with other hospitals in the state to ensure patients receive the necessary care. 

South Dakota

Two large hospital systems based in Sioux Falls, S.D., are adjusting elective surgery plans and adding capacity to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. 

Avera Health is expanding surge capacity at its flagship facility, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, and temporarily moving surgeries from the Avera Surgery Center to other Avera locations. About 5 percent of surgeries will be postponed.

Sanford Health plans to postpone some elective surgery cases requiring an overnight stay, according to system CMO Mike Wilde, MD. New elective cases requiring an overnight stay will not be scheduled for Oct. 19-23, but scheduled elective surgeries will continue as planned.


Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the National Guard is on standby to build a field hospital in the state amid a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Politico reported. The field hospital would be built in a convention center outside of Salt Lake City. 

On Oct. 13, Mr. Herbert ordered masks to be worn at all outdoor events. 

Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George has activated a surge intensive care unit after it exceeded the capacity of its 32-bed unit this weekend, according to St. George News. Under the surge ICU plan, the hospital will convert 57 additional rooms in the hospital into zero-pressure ICU rooms. In total, the hospital has 284 beds and the ability to add 80 to 100 more beds if needed, according to the report. 


Wisconsin opened an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients Oct. 14. The activation of the alternate care facility came as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals in Wisconsin. The number of hospitalizations in the state has tripled in the last month. 

This alternative care facility will not accept walk-in patients. Instead, it will coordinate with health systems in the state to admit COVID-19 patients who need care but are not seriously ill. It will start out with 50 beds, but has the capacity to hold 530.

Throughout October, hospital leaders in the Wisconsin cities of Green Bay, Appleton, Neenah and Wausau have reported critical staffing shortages, intensive care unit capacity issues and the need to transfer patients. 

Aspirus Wausau (Wis.) Hospital has opened an additional COVID-19 unit to accommodate the influx of infected patients, according to the Wausau Daily Herald. The new unit increases the beds to take care of COVID-19 patients to 61. 

More articles on patient flow:
Tenet to close ED, end inpatient care at Massachusetts hospital this month
Patient sets fire in Tennessee hospital room
One Brooklyn Health to cut inpatient care at New York hospital


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