Sanford Health, in a daily update, says as of 5 p.m. Monday, March 16, no tests for COVID-19 have turned back positive in Bemidji.
According to a daily briefing, testing is still being done for patients who have traveled to areas of community transmission.
Schools across the state are closing by Wednesday, and restaurants and bars will have takeout or delivery options only by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
These measures, per executive order by Governor Tim Walz, are a means of community mitigation, one of the frequently heard terms around how Minnesota is tackling the COVID-19 issue. Social distancing, or staying six feet away from other people in social settings, is another frequently used term.
The community mitigation efforts are meant to reduce a sudden surge of patients at any local hospital. Hospitals only have so much capacity, and Sanford Health officials today spoke at Bemidji City Council that with these community mitigation efforts will reduce the number of people who get sick at one time, and patients who are sick enough to need medical care will be able to receive it.
In the briefing at city council today, Dr. David Wilcox reiterated that about 80 percent of those who get COVID-19 will recover with only mild symptoms. Fifteen percent will likely need to be hospitalized, five percent will need intensive care, and one percent may die.
The Minnesota Department of Health stated today that testing will be prioritized for healthcare workers and hospitalized patients. Request for comment on how reporting methods might change with this new priority was not answered by press time.
The Centers for Disease Control released new gathering guidelines Sunday, recommending fewer than 50 people gather for any event. For more vulnerable populations, such as the immunocompromised and the elderly, gathering guidelines are ten people or less.
According to Dr. Wilcox of Sanford Health, these social distancing measures are proven by science: staying six feet away from other people will greatly lower the risk of catching the novel coronavirus.
In the short-term, isolation can be the healthier choice to prevent the spread of infection. But, “over time, human beings need to be interconnected,” said Sanford Health licensed psychologist Jon Ulven, Ph.D.
He suggests that people plan to maintain contact with others via mobile devices, Skype, FaceTime, or any other digital platforms.
“Discuss the plan for staying in touch,” he said.
For example, workplaces might offer working from home, holding virtual meetings and instant messaging. Colleges and universities have adopted distance learning while their campuses are closed. Places of worship and community organizations may broadcast video or audio of their services and events.
Meanwhile, the CDC recommends keeping tabs on vulnerable people such as older adults. Find ways to help, such as checking on them to make sure they’re getting meals and other essentials.
The United Way of the Bemidji Area is currently establishing emergency programming for services that connect people to food and other resources. Find out how you can help here.
Coronavirus is a name for a family of viruses, many of which humanity has seen before. This novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is a new variety which has not been seen before its discovery in Wuhan, China. A few of these coronaviruses are responsible for some types of common cold, but other animal-originated coronaviruses, such as Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), can be particularly serious, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with underlying respiratory disease or chronic illness.
Visitor restrictions have expanded at Sanford Health, and they say they have triage protocols in place. If you have recently traveled to an area of widespread community transmission of COVID-19; have symptoms such as a cough, fever, shortness of breath, body aches and chills; and have had contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, you are asked to call your primary doctor. Patients are asked not to arrive at the Walk In or Emergency Room, so proper triage protocols can take place to prevent spread of COVID-19 in the waiting rooms.
For an updated list of area cancellations, view the latest announcements here.