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National COVID-19 Happenings Affect Local Communities

Our past editorials have been focused on COVID-19 in our area, but this week we need to talk about what is happening across the country as it is directly impacting us.

Fortunately, until now, Lakewood Health System has had minimal positive COVID-19 tests and hospitalizations. Our testing capabilities have increased and improved. We are still being cautious with our supplies and personal protective equipment because, just like every other healthcare system in the country, we do not have an infinite supply. We have purchased new technology which allows us to do different kinds of COVID-19 testing here, but the access to swabs and test kits requires prudent decisions to be made. We are given a limited number of rapid tests every month for which the results are available the same day. We use these for hospitalized patients or emergency situations. The other tests, which take a longer time to get results back, are used for everyone else who needs to be tested for COVID-19. If we were to test everyone requesting one for things like traveling, vacations, work or state requirements (such as Alaska), that would put us in conflicting situations and deplete our supplies quickly. Therefore, we must ensure our tests are prioritized for the right situations and people.

The significant increase in COVID-19 cases in different states for various reasons is taxing health systems – including personnel and supplies. When that happens, valuable resources such as supplies and equipment are sent to the areas that need them the most, which impacts our access to the things we need. We are working diligently to protect and preserve resources for our communities and ensure the distribution of these supplies is fair. Minnesota, specifically central Minnesota, has formed an organization who is working on this and we have designated staff from Lakewood Health System who are working daily with this group.

Masking requirements have been mandated now in Minnesota and various other cities, states and businesses around the country. We have been endorsing masking, social distancing and hand washing since the beginning – and still do. We don’t take political stances or get into debates; we are just focused on health and are concerned about doing our part to protect community members who are vulnerable or cannot wear masks due to health reasons.

We are all learning and adapting to a new norm. I am proud of the resilient, creative people I work with who can get these things done and not let obstacles or challenges stop us from being our best. Just like you, we have been significantly affected by the pandemic, have had to make operational adjustments accordingly, and continue to keep tabs on what is happening nationally. We are also diligently working to ensure your best interests and needs can be met to the best of our abilities.

Tim Rice
President & CEO
Lakewood Health System