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Pandemic notes


June 26, 2020

Hospitals get back to normal

Cloquet’s Community Memorial Hospital is open for all health care needs, hospital officials said in a press release, noting that extensive precautions have been taken to minimize any risk of COVID-19, including screening all individuals coming into the hospital or CMH Raiter Clinic.

Other actions helping to raise the level of safety include the wearing of masks by staff and public, staggered appointments for office visits or procedures, seating arrangements in waiting areas to accommodate social distancing, and specialized cleaning and disinfectant on an ongoing basis. Telehealth visits are also an option in some cases.

St. Luke’s in Duluth has also updated its visitors policy. While visitors will be allowed, restrictions will be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People will be required to verify they are healthy, have not been asked to isolate or quarantine, and wear a mask.

Those under the age of 18 are not allowed to visit, unless otherwise specified. Visitors will be allowed as follows:

Inpatient visitors:

• Adult inpatients: One adult visitor per day, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. only.

• Surgical patients: One adult visitor per day, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. only.

• Inpatients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19: One adult visitor per day, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. only.

• Pediatric inpatients: Up to two parents/guardians at a time.

• Labor and delivery inpatients: One support person. If the patient has a doula, the doula will also be allowed.

• Critically unstable inpatients: Up to two adult visitors per day.

• Inpatients at end of life: Immediate family (including kids under the age of 18 if supervised by an adult) and significant others may be allowed.

Clergy/spiritual leaders may visit inpatients, and St. Luke’s chaplains are also available to support patients and families.

Visitors to St. Luke’s Hospital must enter through the second floor of the Northland Medical Center skywalk. Free parking is available in the ramp at 1010 E. First Street.

In the emergency department, adult patients are allowed one visitor and pediatric patients are allowed two parents/guardians.

Adult patients at clinics are allowed one adult to join them. Pediatric patients may have two parents or guardians.

Pandemic drops health visits

Minnesota health officials said this week that they’re increasingly concerned that people with serious health problems who need emergency room care are not seeking that care amid COVID-19 fears.

It’s especially worrisome for people who might be suffering heart attacks, strokes or low blood sugar, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Monday. She cited national data showing double-digit percentage drops in emergency room visits compared to the weeks before it hit the United States.

“Our health care systems are ready to care for you safely” despite the pressure from COVID-19, she said on Monday.

Dr. Cameron Berg, interim medical director at North Memorial’s emergency department, said the hospital has seen a dramatic change since they started caring for COVID-19 patients.

“Our emergency department takes care of roughly 200 patients on an average day in the springtime. And within a couple of weeks of COVID landing, those volumes had gone down by nearly 50 percent,” Berg said.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released June 22, in the 10 weeks following the declaration of COVID-19 as a national emergency, emergency rooms saw a 23-percent drop in heart attack patients, a 20-percent stroke patients and a 10-percent drop in uncontrolled high blood sugar.

Slowdown in child shots

Minnesota Health commissioner Jan Malcolm has worries that parents are not keeping up with regular vaccinations for their children because of COVID-19 fears.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the number of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine doses given out this year has been down by as much as 70 percent from the same week in 2019, though that gap narrowed to around 35 percent last week.

Children’s Minnesota, the pediatric hospital system in St. Paul and Minneapolis, says it has dispensed far fewer vaccines than normal.

Health department officials say this year it’s very important for people to get an influenza vaccine, as the flu looks similar to COVID-19 but can also take up medical resources through the winter.

Studies back mask use

A growing number of scientific studies support the idea that masks are a critical tool in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

A meta-analysis of 172 studies looked at various interventions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, SARS and MERS from an infected person to people close to them. The analysis, which was published in The Lancet on June 1, found that mask wearing significantly reduces the risk of viral transmission.

“What this evidence supports is that if there is a policy around using face masks in place, it does actually come with a fairly large effect,” says study co-author Holger Schünemann, an epidemiologist at McMaster University.

A study published in Nature Medicine in April looked at people infected with the flu and seasonal coronaviruses. It found that even loose-fitting surgical masks blocked almost all the contagious droplets the wearers breathed out and even some infectious aerosols — tiny particles that can linger in the air.

Other recent studies offer indirect evidence for universal mask use, even if worn by people who are feeling healthy. One study, published in late May in BMJ Global Health, looked at people in households in Beijing where one person was confirmed to have COVID-19. At the time, explains study co-author Raina MacIntyre, research was already showing that the majority of transmission of the virus was happening inside households, and China already had a culture of mask wearing. The study found that in households where everyone was wearing a face mask indoors as a precaution before they knew anyone who lived there was sick, the risk of transmission was cut by 79 percent.

Grant money available

The Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants program is accepting $10,000 grant applications through July 2.

This Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development program will provide grants to small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. Half of the funding will go to businesses across Minnesota and half to businesses in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, as required by law.

A randomized, computer-generated lottery process will be used to select eligible businesses that will receive awards. The grant funds can be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, and other similar business expenses.

Businesses must be able to demonstrate hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Additional eligibility requirements and application information can be found online at DEED’s Small Business Relief Grants page.

Notes compiled by Pine Knot News staff and from Minnesota Public Radio News at


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