By Anna Jauhola
As of Monday, Kittson County remains free of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Cindy Urbaniak, county public health director, said the first sample tested in the county came back negative. And there are less than a handful of other patients who have been tested, but those results have not come back yet.
“We have a false sense of security here,” Urbaniak said. “The closest cases to us now are in Walsh County (in North Dakota) and Beltrami County, Mahnomen County and Clay County (in Minnesota). I’m reasonably sure it’s going to come to us.”
The Kittson Healthcare Clinics in Hallock and Karlstad, as well as the pharmacy in Hallock, remain open to the public. Urbaniak urges those who present with COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough and shortness of breath – first manage their symptoms at home with over-the-counter medicine.
Kittson Healthcare is working to set up cameras to provide virtual practitioner visits should patients feel the need to speak with a professional.
“We’re trying to send the strong message to stay at home, especially with the stay-at-home order,” Urbaniak said, citing the order given by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, March 26. “Even the at-risk population – if they think they are able to manage their symptoms, they should stay home too.”
However, she said if anyone is having trouble breathing, they need to see a practitioner by calling into the clinics.
“Limiting people from entering the facility is an important aspect of our prevention efforts,” said Andrea Swenson, RN, director of clinic nursing and patient safety. “The clinic is also offering provider telephone visits if appropriate as an alternative to a face-to-face visit.”
Currently, Kittson Healthcare continues to follow guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control.
“We can’t stress enough the importance of following all guidance being put out by those entities. The social distancing and hand washing recommendations are key components of that guidance,” Swenson said.
Kittson Healthcare is only performing COVID-19 tests for hospitalized patients, long-term care and assisted living residents, people working or living in congregate settings, and healthcare workers and their ill co-habitants, per direction from the MDH. Anyone else who is concerned they may have COVID-19, refer to guidelines laid out on the back page of the Enterprise.
“The beauty of living where we live is we have time to get all our processes in place,” Urbaniak said. “We’re educating the staff, taking inventory of our personal protective equipment every day,” Urbaniak said. “We don’t have ventilators at Kittson Healthcare. Altru is telling us they are going to be accepting patients we can’t manage here. The big facilities in the region are preparing to handle the bulk of these more severe cases.”
She added that larger hospitals may transfer non-COVID-19 patients to smaller community hospitals in order to handle victims of the virus.
In the meantime, Kittson Healthcare continues to keep tabs on its supplies and waits for the final results from others tested for the disease.
“It’s our goal to continue educating the community with factual information as well as keep them informed about how we are handling this as a facility,” Swenson said.
Anyone who feels they have been exposed to COVID-19 and is presenting symptoms can call the Hallock clinic at 843-2165 or the Karlstad clinic at 436-2251.
By Anna Jauhola