MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Monday sent the first three Minnesota National Guard skilled nursing teams to care facilities statewide on Monday as part of an effort to fix staffing woes amid the current wave of COVID-19 infections.

Fifty Guard members were to begin providing care Tuesday at facilities in New Hope, Onamia and Fergus Falls.

Walz also announced plans to recruit and train at least 1,000 certified nursing assistants to send to long-term care facilities by the end of January. The efforts are meant to ease staffing shortages at these facilities as Minnesota continues to experience spreading of the virus statewide.

The governor also announced the opening of a fourth alternative care site this week for hospitals to send non-critical patients in order to free up space as the current surge in virus infections strains hospital capacity statewide.

More than 1,500 people were hospitalized with complications due to COVID-19 as of Friday, including 346 in intensive care.

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Walz first announced the plan to use Guard members in care homes in November.

“While the National Guard response teams and alternative care sites will provide critical temporary relief, our health care providers cannot bear the stress of any unnecessary spread,” Walz said in a statement.

“Every Minnesotan has a role to play in reducing hospital capacity by simply getting vaccinated, getting their booster, getting tested, and wearing a mask indoors in public.”

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