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Video: Northland officials urge public to "take pandemic seriously"

Nov 13, 2020 05:47AM ● By Editor

Watch the WDIO-TV Report here

Photo: WDIO-TV

By Emily Ness of WDIO-TV - November 12, 2020

Across the state, health officials say that numbers associated with COVID-19 paint a grim picture. In St. Louis County, 54 people were hospitalized as of Wednesday with 15 of those people in the ICU. That is in addition to over 300 new cases of COVID-19 reported in St. Louis County on Wednesday.

In response, Northland officials provided an update on what they are doing to address rising case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths.

The update included remarks from Mayor Emily Larson, St. Louis Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook, Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas and top officials from both St. Luke’s and Essentia Health.

Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen, Chief Medical Officer at St. Luke’s said we need to reverse the trend so people can remain healthy and hospitals won’t be pushed beyond their limits in providing care.

"This isn’t an easy time, but you can make a difference. You can help bring about the change and help us beat this terrible virus,” Van Deelen said. "Stay away from groups—even small ones. Small groups have been hot beds for spreading this virus. If you must gather with people outside of your household, keep the group small and always wear your masks. You might feel uncomfortable if you’re the only one wearing a mask, but stay strong. You’re doing it to protect those around you."

Back in March, St. Luke’s adopted a three-tier approach to fighting COVID-19. Tier one entailed business as usual, while tiers two and three entail taking further action. Just this week, Van Deelen said St. Luke’s entered tier two, which will bring about changes.

"Those changes include adjusting staffing, dedicating an entire unit of 40 beds for patients with COVID-19 and adding 24 additional and critical ICU beds to our already existing 25 to help provide care for those most critically affected,” Van Deelen said.

In addition to entering tier two of their COVID-19 response, Van Deelen said St. Luke’s has stopped performing elective surgeries for the time being to ensure they have the staff and space to care for patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Jon Pryor, East Market President at Essentia Health said that they too have limited the number of elective surgeries they are performing for the same reason.

"Our ability to staff medical and ICU beds is being tested. If the current trajectory of transmission holds, our communities will be at risk,” Pryor said. "What we are asking of you is to help protect our frontline healthcare workers by taking COVID seriously. We need our nurses, our doctors, our respiratory therapists and many others to be well to provide care for patients. How we fair this virus is dependent on each of us."

Both hospitals are encouraging the public to take the pandemic very seriously now and as the holidays draw near.

"Please wear a mask—which the CDC now says protects you and not just those around you, stay a minimum of six feet away—not just six feet, make it more than six feet from others whenever possible and perhaps most importantly, avoid social gathering,” Pryor said.

St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook echoed Van Deelen and Pryor’s statements about remaining vigilant ahead of and during the holidays—saying that people should consider making alternative plans for Thanksgiving, as well as, wear masks and practice social distancing if they do feel the need to gather, even indoors and in a small group. 

Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas also provided an update—saying that Duluth Public Schools made the difficult decision to go to distance learning, beginning next week until at least December 14th. He added that distance learning could last longer if the district does not see numbers go down and called on the community to do their part to help the cause.

To see the original report and related stories, follow this link to the WDIO-TV website.

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