April 12, 2021

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Local medical community asks for your help as COVID-19 cases increasing at exponential rate

'We want you to know that the surge that we have been preparing for is here.' - Dr. Jason Huikko of Stevens Community Medical Center, Danielle Lesmeister, CEO Prairie Ridge Healthcare, and Ann Stehn, Administrator Horizon Public Health

‘We want you to know that the surge that we have been preparing for is here.’Dr. Jason Huikko of Stevens Community Medical Center, Danielle Lesmeister, CEO Prairie Ridge Healthcare, and Ann Stehn, Administrator Horizon Public Health

Stevens County saw its second death caused by COVID-19 Sunday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported. It was a person between the ages of 70 and 74. 

MDH also continues to report a rapid rise in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus, the virus that causes the deadly COVID-19 disease, in the county and state. Since the start of November, Stevens County has added 233 cases, 32 more than the 201 cases it saw between the first case May 4 and Oct. 31. 

At the current pace of just over 14 cases a day in the past 10 days, the county could add another 114 cases by the end of the month bringing its total to 548 cases. 

“We want you to know that the surge that we have been preparing for is here,” Dr. Jason Huikko of Stevens Community Medical Center, Danielle Lesmeister, CEO Prairie Ridge Healthcare, and Ann Stehn, Administrator Horizon Public Health, said in a letter to county residents last week. 

“The recent significant rise in cases in our community is having an impact on many of our systems, including hospitalizations. Positive COVID-19 cases in Stevens County are growing despite all that we are doing. We anticipate the weeks ahead will bring additional cases and challenges,” they said. 

“The rise in cases has a significant impact on our community and health care system. Workforces are inevitably affected due to exposure or illness. Staffing and critical care bed challenges are becoming a reality,” they said. 

It is the same story throughout Minnesota as the number ICU beds available for COVID-19 patients has almost reached full capacity. At some hospitals the capacity to take new patients has already been exceeded and the medical community has said that the state is not near the peak that is expected in the coming weeks. 

“The virus is especially harmful to our elder and vulnerable populations,” Lesmeister, Huikko, and Stehn wrote. “We all have older family members and know people with chronic diseases. We want them to be safe and able to receive health care when the need arises. 

“We need everyone to come together to slow the spread of COVID-19. In addition to protecting our most vulnerable, we can help our business, industry and educational community.”

“Our best tools to slow the virus spread right now include staying home when you are sick, wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings with those who do not live in your household, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands.” 

Minnesota state health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are urging people to avoid gather with family that does not living the same household. They are concerned that too many will not heed the advice, causing new spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state. 

“With the holidays approaching we know it may be tempting to congregate with family to celebrate,” Lesmeister, Huikko, and Stehn wrote. “These gatherings can be a significant source of spread so we encourage you to consider safer alternatives to connect with your loved ones during this time of rapid case increase and community spread. Until a safe and effective vaccine is approved and available, we have limited ways to fight this virus. 

“We are incredibly grateful for every one of our front line workers who have been working for months now to provide a safe place to receive healthcare and to be ready to care for patients in this highly complex situation. Day after day, they rise to the occasion and give more. 

“We are all in this together. Please continue to take care of yourselves, support one another through acts of kindness this season and mask up to safeguard our family, friends and community,” they are asking the community. 

Horizon see cases, deaths rise 

Stevens County note alone in seeing spike. All five of Horizon Public Health’s counties have seen a significant jump in their cases numbers. Nowhere, however, has seen a more severe impact than Douglas County. 

At the start of November, Douglas County had reported just four COVID-19 deaths and 828. In just 22 days, it has now record 25 deaths a seen its case number soar by 1,291 to 2,119. 

Pope County has seen its total cases jump from 176 at the start of the month to 462 Sunday, an increase of 286 cases in 22 days. It has yet to see a death from COVID-19. 

Traverse County saw its case numbers go from 63 at the start of November to 119 as of Sunday, an increase of 56 cases. It also has yet to see a death. 

Grant County recorded its sixth death this month and has added 125 new cases, going from 110 to 225.

Reed Anfinson