The Bemidji City Council heard from Sanford Bemidji officials on the developing COVID-19 situation during their regular meeting Monday.
To date, over 578 COVID-19 tests have been completed at the Bemidji site, with 567 coming back negative and eight positive. Of those, six lived in Beltrami County, and all of them are recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
Sanford’s modeling, which shows the beginning of a surge in late May and a peak at the end of August, predicts the Bemidji area will have a maximum need of 51-113 beds for COVID-19 patients and 10-22 ventilators.
“Right now, we have no patients in our house with COVID-19 diagnosis, we’ve had some patients under investigation, but it’s difficult to put together a model when we don’t have that specific data,” said Kelly Hagen, vice president of nursing operations at Sanford Bemidji.
Dr. David Wilcox, chief medical officer for Sanford Bemidji, spoke on how the community can safely reopen businesses, but Bemidji currently has no evidence of community spread, or any immunity to the contagious virus.
“We’re really down at that first part of the curve, where our efforts are starting to work and it’s flattening the curve to some degree,” said Wilcox. “And if we’re successful, this won’t look so bad. If we return to business as usual, especially in our community where we’re not immune to the disease, we will accelerate on the same disaster curve everyone was concerned about in the first place.”
Dr. Wilcox also said that when the curve is flat, the number of cases needing hospitalizations and medical intervention are stretched out over time, but still at the same number. Flattening the curve, he says, means preventing unnecessary deaths from an overwhelmed health care system.
Sanford is recommending to take extra measures for reopening business, such as employee and even customer health screening, maintaining distance, social separation and masking.
Another concern Dr. Wilcox discussed was the drop in routine preventative checkups, particularly vaccines for children.
“Just over the last two months, our vaccine rate for kids is down 50 percent,” said Wilcox. “We all know what happens, with things like the measles outbreaks, and some of the other vaccine prevention outbreaks that can happen. We’ve had a couple of those in Minnesota over the last couple of years.”
Overall, Sanford officials briefed the council that the health network is prepared to handle surge capacity, as well as participate in clinical trials of medications such as remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine, in addition to the convalescent plasma therapy announced by Sanford last week.
Susan Jarvis, CEO and President of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, said the network is also prepared as restrictions ease on elective surgeries, and that they have not furloughed staff.
“We have retrained and restaffed about 500 staff members,” said Jarvis. “About 20 to 30 people are affected each pay period in a reduction of hours.”
Toward the end of the meeting, City Attorney Al Felix said the state’s Court of Approvals affirmed the annexation of a portion of Bemidji Township, which was affirmed by the District Court.
According to the court’s opinion document, in May 2018, the City of Bemidji accepted a petition for annexation by ordinance of a 14-acre parcel of property in Bemidji Township from the property’s owner.
Bemidji Township objected to the annexation, and in June 2018, the city adopted an ordinance annexing the property.
Bemidji Township then filed an objection and requested an evidentiary hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings. The OAH approved the annexation, which also was appealed by Bemidji Township to the district court.
The district court was asked by Bemidji Township to vacate the OAH order and that the district court rule on the legal issues raised in its objection to the annexation. The district court affirmed the OAH’s order and dismissed the appeal.
Now the appeals court has affirmed, or agreed, with the district court’s decision.
The next possible step is the Minnesota Supreme Court. Everyone has the right to an appeal with the Court of Appeals, but the Minnesota Supreme Court takes cases under their own discretion.
Bemidji Township has 30 days to file with the Supreme Court.
The Bemidji City Council also discussed:
- The approval of awarding the alley paving project in Nymore-area alleys to Bemidji Bituminous for $70,000.
- The summary of the City Manager’s performance review. The council expressed their unanimous support for Nate Mathews during his review in a closed work session April 27.
- Claims submitted by Venuworks for $23,289.85. The item was approved.
- Approval of an Emergency COVID-19 Revolving Loan Fund loan to Lake Bemidji Bed and Breakfast. Councillor Nancy Erickson stated the loan was high risk.