Fall is finally upon us after a long warm summer. Unfortunately, the changing leaves and crisp air are accompanied by another wave of COVID-19 positivity. The recent surge has placed an extraordinary amount of stress on our staff and patients.

Presently, our COVID-19 prevalence is extremely high, at a rate of approximately 180 cases per 10,000. This rate is comparable to the wave we experienced last fall. We are approximately one month ahead of our record activity which peaked at over 200 cases per 10,000 in 2020. Our test positivity rate is many times beyond the 5% threshold that would identify good community control of COVID-19.

Recently, Tri-County Health Care was over 25% positivity. We are also seeing significant stress on health care systems throughout the region. The trend continues to climb and although we had hoped the peak was near, that is not the case. We are not seeing the pause of relief like many other hospitals around the nation. There is also a significant increase in other diseases and non-covid hospitalizations. Cold-like symptoms are highly prominent among school-age children. This is fairly common for the fall months, but this increase along with our COVID-19 positivity places an incredible strain on area facilities.

In many cases, patients who would typically be transferred to larger regional or metro hospitals, are being kept at smaller facilities like Tri-County Health Care because there are simply not enough beds. This is leading to delays in care, long periods of discomfort and stress for patients. It’s also resulting in an extreme amount of frustration and fatigue for our staff.

I am very proud of the Tri-County family for their fortitude during this unprecedented time. The level of ownership and commitment that our staff has shown is exemplary. It does cause me a great deal of pain to see our communities disregard the hero status of our caregivers. In general, the much-earned adoration of medical staff around our country has waned. I no longer see the same level of masking and mitigation efforts that helped slow this pandemic during its initial months.

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Due to the current surge, we have to continue certain restrictions within our organization. Generally, we are allowing one visitor in both our inpatient and outpatient settings. Other restrictions include isolation and quarantine protocols. Patients who are COVID positive will have additional restrictions on visitors and their isolation procedures.

Unfortunately, Tri-County Health Care is again experiencing a shortage of COVID-19 testing supplies. Our lab department has switched back to tests that require two to three days before receiving results. This change is not optimal and I apologize for the inconvenience.

I hope we will see an end to this surge soon. Wadena County and our surrounding areas are some of the lowest vaccinated regions in the state of Minnesota, which means we are enduring higher rates of COVID-19. Our positivity rate is not just high for the state but for the entire country.

Vaccinations continue to be our best tool against the spread of COVID-19. The medical staff and I at Tri-County Health Care encourage you to get vaccinated. The third dose is also available for those who qualify. If you still have concerns about getting vaccinated, please talk to your primary care provider. They will give you personalized, scientifically-based information on the virus and the vaccine. Please seek information from trusted professionals, not from social media. I respect personal decisions, and I hope everyone makes this decision with the best information available.

I want everyone to continue using sound and medically proven mitigation techniques like masking, physical distancing and avoiding large crowds. These proven strategies help us reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Again, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to TCHC staff, providers and their families. Every day they do phenomenal work to ensure the health and safety of our patients. I wish everyone a safe and healthy autumn season. Please do everything you can do to help slow the spread of this virus.

Take care and God bless.

Joel Beiswenger is president and CEO of Tri-County Health Care in Wadena