Rock County numbers slowly rise
As Rock County’s confirmed coronavirus cases still number in the single digits, its neighboring counties to the east and west are reporting rapidly rising cases.
As of Tuesday morning, Rock County had eight cases, but Minnehaha is up to 1,939 and Nobles has 477, both stemming from outbreaks in meat processing plants in Sioux Falls and Worthington.
While it appears Rock County is an oasis in between, local health professionals and emergency responders urge residents to remain vigilant about social distancing.
“We are not immune,” said Tammy Loosbrock, CEO of Sanford Luverne. “It will be coming and we will see our numbers go up as well.”
She said the hospital and other local members of Rock County’s emergency response have been preparing and training for weeks, but all cases will have better outcomes if medical workers aren’t overwhelmed with numbers all at once.
“It’s important to remember all the principles that we've been stressing to prevent spread,” Loosbrock said, referring to social distancing and frequent hand washing.
“Also, it’s important to wear a cloth mask when you’re out in stores and anywhere you can't socially distance.”
While Sanford Luverne continues to test patients based on the department of health criteria, an increasing source of frustration is access to accurate data to track the virus spread.
For one thing, because tests are still in short supply in many areas, not everyone gets tested (they have to meet MDH criteria), and positive cases often take several days to get reported.
“I’m frustrated about the reporting part of it,” said Rock County Emergency Management Coordinator Kyle Oldre.
But he concedes that local response is the same regardless. “Keep your social distance and wear masks when you’re out and about.”
He did mention a few encouraging developments in the past several days.
Out-of-state health care licensure
Gov. Tim Walz on Saturday signed Executive Order 20-46, authorizing certain out-of-state health care professionals to provide aid in Minnesota during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.
“That’s a really big deal for us,” Oldre said. “I appreciated that.”
He said he’s still concerned about pharmacists and other professionals not included in the order, but it addresses immediate staffing concerns. “If we have staff get sick, the most likely source for us is 25 miles to the west, not 200 miles to the north.”
According to the governor’s order, virus hot spots in Minnesota risk overwhelming local health care providers, and long-term care facilities are facing critical staffing shortages.
Executive Order 20-46 allows hospitals and care providers the flexibility to temporarily hire qualified professionals who would otherwise be required to obtain a license from the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice or the Minnesota Board of Nursing to provide intensive care services and meet the health care needs of Minnesotans.
Minnesota Healthcare Call Center
Another positive development over the past few days is the Minnesota Healthcare Call Center, which organizes a statewide pool of available nurses and trained professionals to provide emergency staffing in nursing homes and care facilities.
“I don’t know how much that will affect us here, but at least we have folks who have experience who could come and help us,” Oldre said. “That’s a real important piece for everyone, especially if staff get sick.”
If an outbreak occurs at a long-term care facility where staff members also get sick, the facility may find itself unable to care for residents.
The Minnesota Healthcare Resource Call Center, as it’s called, also coordinates resources among facilities to support resident care.
For example, it matches acute care facilities looking for beds with facilities that have open beds available.
The state of Minnesota updates coronavirus data daily at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/situation.html#map1.
For South Dakota information see https://doh.sd.gov/news/Coronavirus.aspx#SD
Tests are limited and we use the MDH criteria to determine who is tested. However, if someone has symptoms, they are likely to be tested, especially if they live with someone who has tested positive.