The COVID-19 pandemic is a historic global event we are all feeling to some degree in our community.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a historic global event we are all feeling to some degree in our community. While we haven’t experienced the overwhelming surge in medical needs, illness, and death, like New York or Italy, we are experiencing the illness and have lost lives here in Minnesota. We are feeling a significant impact in our workplaces, families, and the local economy. Businesses have had to close, people have lost their jobs, students are no longer gathering for the school day, and parents have become teachers at home. Weddings, funerals, birthday parties, concerts, proms, graduations, fundraisers and many other events have been canceled. We have been asked to STAY HOME unless we are a critical infrastructure employee or a healthcare worker. Our lives have been turned upside down!

Information about COVID-19 is coming from everywhere. We have access to continuous information on the topic and much of it is changing daily, even by the trusted sources, as we find more out about the virus. Some of the information is not accurate and there are a variety of opinions and projections from numerous sources.

All of this is extremely overwhelming and very difficult for many, if not everyone.

Through all of this, I see every day how strong and resilient people are in the community of Brown County. I see people following arrows in grocery stores. I’ve watched organizations come together to ensure those with the most need have access to food and emergency help. I’ve seen local business owners and schools step up to help to provide support or make homemade masks.

In my own home, we are a recent kidney transplant family; we are going to some extremes to stay safe. A silver lining to all of this is witnessing how a community comes together in times of need. As the county’s director of public health, I want to thank you, our community, for all the sacrifices you’ve made to protect our community. 

Public health experts across the country are seeing that social distancing is helping to lessen the terrible burden our country is experiencing right now. Even with the efforts we’ve all made, Minnesota has many families already impacted with the death of a loved one, including one here in Brown County. The efforts being made across Minnesota have likely prevented many more deaths already. This is apparent in the way we have been able to flatten the curve. Minnesota has the lowest COVID-19 lab confirmed cases per capita in our region.

Gov. Tim Walz announced that Minnesota’s stay at home order will be in effect until May 4 and the peace time emergency until May 13. If we don’t give the virus anyone to jump to, it dies when each infected person fights off the virus.

Each day we don’t see accelerating transmission locally, is another day our local hospitals and clinics have to prepare hospital beds and accumulate the necessary equipment to keep our first responders and healthcare professionals safe. It also allows our excellent healthcare facilities to work on developing possible treatment, improved testing capacity, and eventually a vaccine. By limiting transmission, our medical system has been able to provide the best care possible to those suffering from severe infections. 

The work that all of the frontline healthcare workers, and all of the other essential workers, are doing is beyond remarkable. There are so many essential service businesses and employees that have been going to work, or working from home, so we can all have what we need. It is truly a cooperative effort and we need to try to keep those employees safe from illness so we do not have an interruption in service.

However, we all know this isn’t easy. Businesses need to re-open, people naturally need social interaction, and I will be happy to rejoin my public health team in the office and hug my grandchildren. The work we are doing to stay away from others is difficult, but it is also literally saving lives in our community. 

There will be a time to start getting back to work and school, but we aren’t there quite yet. As we move towards re opening certain things and getting people back to work, I urge everyone to follow the guidance. With outdoor recreation opening up per the governor’s order, we need to remember that the order comes with guidelines for social distancing of six feet, which continues to be very important. Wearing masks when out in public, where social distancing is difficult, will help to reduce transmission of the virus, especially if someone that has the virus is not symptomatic yet.

And of course STAY HOME if you are sick. Have someone else provide you with essential service items by leaving them on the doorstep. If you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 and you feel you need medical care, please access your healthcare provider by phone, or through a virtual contact first, before presenting to the clinic or emergency room with symptoms.

If you are having difficulty with your mental wellbeing from the stress of COVID-19, I encourage you to reach out and ask for help. You can find resources for that on our Brown County website or call our essential services hotline for the resources at 507-233-6808, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or leave a message.

I want to encourage all of us to stay vigilant for a few more weeks, as the state leadership in this response begin to slowly restore our community norms. If we do this as a community, we can keep making decisions about how to navigate through this together, instead of the virus making the decisions for us.

Accurate information can be found at:

https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/aboutdnr/covid-19-outdoor-recreation-guidelines.html