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Fairmont Mayo deals with cases

FAIRMONT — Martin County’s COVID numbers continue to be sobering. The Minnesota Department of Health reported the death on Friday of a person in their 40s, bringing the county’s death toll up to 22 and the state’s up to 3,845, or approximately the combined populations of Sherburn, Truman, Welcome, Trimont and Ceylon.

Over the past week, the county has registered more than 160 positive cases ranging in age from 7 months to 94 years. The county has 228 active cases with 21 of those hospitalized.

News reports from across the country relate stories of hospitals and medical staff facing the challenge of caring for current patients and bracing for an expected influx of cases following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont has had COVID patients in the hospital continually since March.

“The numbers have gone up and down, but we have had COVID patients here through the course of it,” said Dr. Marie Morris, medical director at Fairmont Mayo. “Are we seeing an increase? Absolutely. Since October, the number of COVID patients did increase, and it’s stayed at that higher level. That has forced the hospital to increase our resources so we are capable of taking care of more patients.”

“Right now, we’re staffed to care for 18 in-patients, but that number changes on a daily basis,” said Amy Long, administrator at Fairmont Mayo.

That number is higher than during the hospital’s normal operation, but the hospital can handle the spike by shifting resources, such as nursing staff, from the clinic to the hospital.

“All along, we’ve had a surge plan so if we need more capacity, we can shift resources to the hospital, which would be our highest priority,” Morris said.

Long and Morris praised Fairmont Mayo’s staff for their response to the COVID challenge. Staff resources were stretched with some employees testing positive and others having to quarantine after having been exposed to the coronavirus.

“Everyone has been extremely flexible and shown tremendous teamwork through this very stressful and difficult time,” Long said. “They trained in other areas and have truly stepped up in every way possible.”

“They offered support to each other, and everyone is willing to cross over whether it’s at the clinic or hospital side,” Morris said. “Everyone is working hard in any capacity that we ask them. They have been wonderful.”

Long said the capacity is a challenge for the hospital, as it is for all hospitals in the Mayo system and throughout the state and country.

“We’re busy. Our hospitals are full, but we’re managing the capacity,” she said. “There may be times when a patient is sent outside the Mayo system to a hospital that does have ICU bed availability and vice versa. That’s what we mean by managing. It’s the coordination of bed availability.”

On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that only two staffed ICU beds were available in the southcentral portion of Minnesota, based on 93 out of 95 reporting hospitals. The southcentral region includes the 11 counties of Blue Earth, Brown, Nicollet, Watonwan, Faribault, Martin, Waseca, Le Sueur, Sibley, McLeod, and Meeker.

The same region reported 73 staffed non-ICU beds available, with 131 out of 132 hospitals reporting.

Regardless of a medical center’s capacity, people are still encouraged to go to the nearest hospital for emergency care in the event of a heart attack or injury. Even if the hospital is full, emergency department personnel will provide life-saving care and stabilize the patient as quickly as possible.

Since the initial surge in October, Fairmont Mayo has completed a steady average of about 130 tests a day at its COVID testing site. Even with the Public Health Department also conducting COVID testing at the Fairmont National Guard Armory, Mayo’s testing numbers have remained fairly constant.

Testing is offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week. People can drive up to the hospital doors, enter for a quick test, and leave. No appointment is necessary.

Local medical professionals are preparing for a possible vaccine in the near future. Long said she has been in communication with the Minnesota Department of Health and the regional health care coalition regarding distribution.

“We are actively planning how to proceed when we receive the vaccine. We will be ready to roll,” Morris said.

Until then, following protocols set by health care experts and scientists offers the best opportunity to slow down the spread of the virus: hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a mask.

“We just can’t say strongly enough how important it is for our whole community to do what we can to protect every one of us,” Morris said. “That means every one of us. Everyone has a role to play.”

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