Listen to the health experts

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

When I received two informative and persuasive articles from our local health experts, I decided both should appear on this page. Yes, there is a little overlap on information. That’s because it is well-established information on COVID-19.

I decided I might as well add more to the topic.

The Herald-Dispatch is part of the USA Today network, so I receive daily emails with top stories from around the nation. Usually a couple catch my eye.

One I read today was an opinion piece, written by Dr. Marc Siegel, a member of USA Today's Board of Contributors and a Fox News medical correspondent. He is also a clinical professor of medicine.

The title of his piece was, “If Americans keep ignoring COVID-19 safety precautions, we'll have to shut down. Again.” Here is a sentence I also found thought-provoking: “A contagious virus is not a subject for a debate over personal choice but only over the extent of public health measures that are necessary to control it.”

Please don’t think of COVID-19 as a political event. Please do act as advised to help stop the spread.

SEMC urges public to resist pandemic fatigue

As the state begins to open up and various activities resume, Sleepy Eye Medical Center urges the public to resist pandemic or quarantine fatigue.

Dr. Harman Dhaliwal of SEMC further explains this idea of pandemic or quarantine fatigue by referring to Jacqueline Gollan, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Obstetrics & Gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

According to Dhaliwal, Gollan states, “There’s a way people may create a context that assumes that it’s not important (the pandemic). They don’t see anybody sick around them. They don’t know what’s going on, so why would they pay attention to it? So, they may assume a sense of confidence or a perception of control to…confront the situations that are actually risky.”

Dhaliwal acknowledges that some people will choose to engage in risky activities. Instead of shaming each other for those decisions (“risky” or safe), she suggests we work together to reduce risks for others and ourselves.

“We can accept that, despite our best efforts, some people will choose to engage in higher-risk activities—and instead of shaming each other, let’s provide our loved ones with tools to reduce any potential harms. Want to see your grandkids? Still planning to have that party? Meet up outside. Don’t share food or drinks. Wear masks. Keep your hands clean. And stay home if you’re sick,” said Dhaliwal.

There is growing concern of fatigue, specifically in south-central Minnesota, following a spike in cases within several counties, including Watonwan and Blue Earth, which occurred mid-June. Watonwan County also experienced a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

SEMC asks residents not to let the relaxing of some stay-at-home guidelines cause complacency of individual health and safety efforts and encourages the community to:

•Practice distancing by staying six-feet away from others when possible.

•Avoid congregating in large numbers.

•Wear a face mask if you are unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

•Stay home when you are sick.

•Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

•Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as workstations, handrails, and doorknobs.

•Contact your health care provider if you have concerns about your health and for more information about testing options.

Minnesota also witnessed a shift in the age group that accounts for the largest number of COVID-19 cases. According to new data released on by the Minnesota Department of Health on Friday, June 26, Minnesotans between the ages of 20 and 29 are now the largest group of those testing positive, accounting for 7,045 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. This group now surpasses those ages 30 to 39, who account for 6,908 cases (previously the largest group of those testing positive in the state). People ages 80 to 89 account for 1,536 of the cases, but 484 of the deaths.

The shift in age groups comes after more than 100 cases were reported among Minnesotans in their 20s who went to bars in the Mankato area June 12-13.

On Friday, Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota’s infectious disease director, said that the state’s early sacrifices to limit COVID-19’s spread “will be undermined if we don’t get cooperation from Minnesotans, especially younger Minnesotans, who are most active and social.”

“We desperately need younger Minnesotans to take it seriously,” she added.

Even though young people may be less likely to suffer complications from the virus, Minnesota health officials share concerns of them unknowingly spreading the disease to vulnerable populations.

Sleepy Eye Medical Center wants the community to know that staff are taking extra precautions to keep patients safe.

“We continue to screen all who enter, practice social distancing, wear masks, and thoroughly clean our waiting areas and surfaces throughout the facility. It’s important that you receive safe care when you need it, and we’re here to make sure that happens,” said Kevin Sellheim, SEMC Administrator. “Patients shouldn’t delay necessary care in fear of their safety; we’re committed to keeping SEMC a clean, safe environment for all.”

In turn, patients play an important role in protecting themselves and others during hospital and clinic visits. To prepare for an upcoming appointment, SEMC asks patients to review facility safety procedures prior to visiting:

Local health officials urge residents to practice everyday health habits as COVID-19 cases increase in region

By Brown County Public Health

Mankato and the surrounding communities in the south central region of the state are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, Brown County Public Health recommends practicing everyday health habits outlined by Minnesota Department of Health. •Practice social distancing, keeping six feet away from others when possible. •Wear a face mask in public settings where distancing is difficult to maintain. •Stay home when you are sick. •Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer when soap is not available. •Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. •Contact your health care provider regarding symptoms and testing. Mayo Clinic Health System and Mankato Clinic are seeing higher patient volumes in their respiratory clinics and testing tents. Blue Earth County reported 267 COVID-19 cases, with a large majority of recent cases in the 19- to 25-year-old age range, as of June 24. Brown County has had 10 new cases since June 10, when Phase III of the Governor’s Opening Plan started. Seven of the individuals have been in the 19 to 28 age range. The illness is perceived as not being as serious in young adults, but even if that is true they have parents, grandparents, coworkers, or people they may serve in the workplace who could be at risk for serious illness. Attending large gatherings, such as at bars and restaurants, or private gatherings without social distancing and a cloth face cover, is causing an increase in the spread of COVID-19 among this age group. Businesses that have been allowed to open up have guidelines and are required to have a written plan reflecting those guidelines. In general they are only allowed a certain percentage of their maximum capacity of guests, and must have put measures in place for social distancing of six feet between family groups. We are asking the public to respect those guidelines and follow any signage or requests of the business, so they are able to remain in compliance and follow their plan. With summer here and holiday weekends, please think about options to prevent the spread. Outdoor gatherings of 25 people or less with social distancing, or indoor gatherings of 10 people or less with social distancing, are recommended. Staying home is the safest option. Minnesota Department of Health recommends that people with symptoms should stay home until they feel better, it has been 10 days since they first felt sick, and they have had no fever for the last three days, without using medicine that lowers fevers. Individuals in close contact with coworkers or household members who have COVID-19 should self-isolate for 14 days (10 days for critical workers). “Since symptoms can develop from two to 14 days after exposure, it’s important for people who have been in close contact with a coworker or household member to self-isolate for 14 days. A negative test does not mean an individual can return to work. A future test may be positive,” said Karen Moritz, Brown County Public Health Director. “By self-isolating for 14 days, you can help keep our vulnerable neighbors and community safe.” Brown County Public Health is conducting case investigation and contract tracing on lab confirmed cases. Please do your part to respond as they try to make contact with affected individuals. Brown County Public Health coordinates essential services to residents diagnosed with COVID-19 or directed by a health care professional to self-isolate due to an exposure. Our Essential Services number is 507-233-6808 and the email is Minnesota Department of Health website offers guidelines on COVID-19 and “When to Return to Work” and “What to Do if an Employee has COVID-19.” The CDC website offers guidance to weigh the risks of going out or participating in public activities.