As the deadly coronavirus continues its rampage through Minnesota nursing homes, public health officials are facing a fresh dilemma: Where to care for surging numbers of sickened patients without spreading the virus.

Over the past 10 days, authorities have scrambled to evacuate dozens of residents from three long-term care facilities in separate parts of the state, from Winona to Duluth, after they became overwhelmed by large and particularly lethal outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. In each case, staff members became so ill that they couldn’t care for patients, and local authorities and hospital systems had to move swiftly to prevent a wider catastrophe. The rescue efforts were mostly orchestrated on the fly at the local level by facility administrators and county agencies.

But as the number and severity of outbreaks intensify in senior care facilities, alarmed public health experts have raised questions about whether the state has enough safe places to isolate and treat the hundreds of elderly residents sickened by the virus.

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