A group of the regions leading healthcare officials and local government leaders met Monday morning to discuss a continuity of operational plans aimed at protecting the region and its many high risk residents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was guided by Countryside Health's Gloria Tobias, the emergency preparedness coordinator and current incident commander for the organization's COVID-19 response. Also present in the room were numerous representatives from the Clarkfield Care Center, the Mayor and the city Administrator for Granite Falls, County Commissioners from Chippewa and Yellow Medicine, Project Turnabout reps, the Granite Falls Lutheran Pastor, Family Services workers, a Minnesota West rep, Avera Granite Falls and Ambulance leads, Clarkfield home care and ambulance director, as well as Yellow Medicine Sheriffs and Jailers.
The group each shared their current organizational stances designed to combat the spread of Coronavirus in the region on the heels of news of the virus reaching our door steps, with a first case hitting the neighboring county of Renville. The communication network of regional experts was pulled into existence to pinpoint gaps in needed coverage and support with hopes the lines of communication would remain forged and open. Tobias discussed the recently announced state school closures and the new challenges of ensuring children relying on daily meal access are served as well as the detrimental childcare situation facing our emergency and hospital workers who need to be serving the sick.
Countryside Health put a premium on social distancing, “If we can really slow this down so that we don't have high incidents in our communities we will do a real service to our healthcare system” stated Tobias who went on to explain that the goal isn't to avoid “high” numbers at medical facilities, its about curbing even “medium” levels of disease which is still overwhelming to handle. The partners were all focused on ways to reinforce the need for individuals to stay home, discourage large groups from gathering, and encourage hand washing at every turn, especially upon returning home to keep the germs out. Public Health and Human Services are developing plans to service and feed those infected and quarantine at home if and when the need arrives. Tobias pleaded with the group to continue considering ways for people to connect in a time when they are not coming together face to face.
Government entities in the room spoke to their dissection of operational needs, reviewing what has to be done each day to ensure successful operations, with the smallest amount of people at the helm. Countryside also asked the entities to work with their staff and patrons to make sure each family had a care plan in place, mapping out how they would receive access to childcare and resources if in the position of home quarantine. Having a fourteen day supply of resources was recommended within reason, noting that fever reducers and healthy fluids are more detrimental than the odd rush to the toilet paper aisle.
The facilities of Project Turnabout and Clarkfield Care center both have already banned all visitor access to ensure the safety of their at risk clienteles. Turnabout has also implemented double screening of any new incoming clientele. Temperature tests and coronavirus based questionnaires are being used in the Clarkfield facility and the most recent debate is whether or not the care center residents should be eating in the shared dining area or if food service to the individual rooms will be implemented. According to the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state, 27% of their population has died from the illness, 27 of the 120 onsite residents, only strengthening the arguments of like facilities to take extreme precautions.
In the religious sector, Granite Falls Lutheran pastor detailed the cancelling of all nonessential operations including cancelled worship services and bible study but also highlighted an ongoing focus to allow those isolated to connect. In the Granite Falls city government, Crystal Johnson explained all residents are being encouraged via signage to not enter the city facilities for business that can be handled over the phone or payments that can be simply made through an exterior drop box. A Chippewa county representative noted the county was watching their neighbors, looking to Lac Parle’s recent decision closing all government offices to the public and expecting like measures in the coming days. On Tuesday March 17th Yellow Medicine County did follow suit by closing all Yellow Medicine government offices to the public with the exception of the justice center's main entrance which would stay accessible for the sole purpose of essential appearances.
If PPE was a name, then the group may have to buy the term a new one given it was so worn out from use around the round table. PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment, referencing face masks, gloves, disinfectants and other essential disease combating supplies. Each organization noted if they were stocked or low on PPE supplies and discussed other agencies reserves that may need replenishing pending the regions health future.
The common threads in the room all appeared to be woven for the same security blanket. Social distancing is a must, stay away from group gatherings and close interactions, wash your hands frequently, really really frequently, if you can work from home do so, drink healthy and eat healthy and if you or a daily member becomes ill, stay home unless directed otherwise by a medical Official.