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Fairmont area community partners respond to virus

IN RESPONSE — Martin County Commissioner Steve Flohrs, right, listens Monday while Martin and Faribault County Human Services executive director Chera Sevcik, center, talks with UHD CEO Richard Ash, left, and Dr. Marie Morris, medical director for Mayo Clinic Health System-Fairmont. The group was part of a news conference to discuss how community groups are partnering in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

FAIRMONT — A press conference Monday, organized by Martin County Emergency Management director Abigail Nesbit, brought together community partners in the Fairmont area to discuss efforts regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and public safety.

Kicking off the conference was Dr. Marie Morris, medical director for Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont.

“Our main takeaway is that residents should be prepared but not panic,” she said. “The number of cases is growing very rapidly, but to my knowledge, as of this moment, we don’t have any cases in Martin County.

“Please keep in mind that public health [services], the CDC and medical campuses are all working together on this. The medical campuses have to maintain privacy for our patients; we do rely on public health to be the one reporting the statistics.”

“We’re worried more about the group of people over age 60 or individuals with heart disease, lung disease or asthma who are the at-risk group,” Morris added. “The way this virus is spread is similar to influenza; it’s spread through droplets when you cough or sneeze.”

She went on to remind people to wash their hands frequently, especially after touching surfaces, shaking hands or before eating. People should cover their mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, and avoid touching eyes, noses and mouths.

Mayo is asking that people call their health care provider before coming to the facility.

“With a phone call, we can triage what symptoms a person is having and where they would be best managed or treated, and we’re able to better prepare for the visit,” she said. “Mayo has set up a drive-through testing station so that if an individual is thought to potentially be at risk for having COVID-19, we have the ability to have them drive-through, be tested by staff, and leave and go back home to stay quarantined until the results are known.”

People are asked not to drive to the test site. They need to be triaged by questions from nurses and then be registered as a patient.

Richard Ash, CEO of UHD in Blue Earth, shared Morris’s assessment of the situation. Ash noted that UHD will be canceling some elective services.

“If you’re healthy, wellness visits need to wait,” he said. “If you don’t need elective surgeries, let’s not have them. We are also restricting visitation and unnecessary meetings.”

Martin and Faribault County Human Services executive director Chera Sevcik said her agency is working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health.

“The situation is rapidly evolving,” she said. “Just a couple of days ago, we did not have any cases in south-central Minnesota and now we have two. If there were to be a confirmed case in our county, the MDH would alert our staff at our agency.

“We are working closely with MDH to be ready to coordinate essential services for members of our community who may be put into isolation and quarantine. That means that we would be ensuring those individuals have adequate food and water, access to health care services, and other smaller necessities they need to be able to stay home and stay protected.

“We are also partnering with MDH to implement community mitigation strategies,” Sevcik continued. “So maintaining social distancing of 6 feet, limiting meetings and events to less than 50, or less than 10 if possible, and staying home if you are sick until you are symptom-free.

Sevcik suggests people utilize the Minnesota Department of Health website — www.health.state.mn.us — if they have concerns or questions.

Lisa Frommie, Faribault County Emergency Management director, was also in attendance. She said Faribault County will initiate the same measures as Martin County in response to COVID-19.

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