Dodge County has been spared the worst of the virus
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Both because residents have followed strict quarantine protocols and because of its rural nature, Dodge County has seen few cases of COVID 19 cases since the virus invaded Minnesota.

As of June 12, there were 58 positive cases in the county and Public Health Director Amy Caron explained that approximately 46 of those people are now out of the hospital or out of isolation in their homes.

That leaves only about 10 people in quarantine right now. None of them are hospitalized.

The county has had no deaths from the virus.

“The patients have ranged in age from under one year old to those in their 80’s. The majority of the cases are in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s; our working adults,” said Caron.

Those statistical age ranges are true for the state, also, she said.

“We have had a couple of cases in long-term care facilities - both residents and staff members - but the facilities did a wonderful job of containing the spread within the facilities,” she said.

“Our facilities are taking the right steps to protect their residents and staff. Steele County is also doing well in that area,” she noted.

Statewide, about 80 percent of the 1,200 deaths have been in long-term care facilities.

Staff members at the Public Health department have many roles during an emergency such as this.

“Early on, we did outreach at long-term care facilities and at the larger area businesses to make sure they had the resources they needed and to explain how to protect their employees if they did have a positive case.”

Staff members have been providing essential services to individuals that need them.

“For example,” she explained, “if someone is in isolation and has no one else to help them, we will bring food and medication to them. We want to make sure those in isolation stay in isolation. We want them to stay out of grocery stores and convenience stores.”

Now, staff members have been trained in ‘case and trace.’ That is the case investigation and contact tracing for people who have been exposed to the virus.

“It’s a process where we trace the interactions of every person that tests positive. This was previously done by the state Department of Health personnel but now it is done locally and that allows for investigations that are more timely and efficient,” she explained.

“Therefore, if we had a hot spot or cluster, we could get on top of it faster. And, some residents probably prefer to hear from a local person rather than the state.”

And Public Health’s regular services are still being offered, “…but we just do them in a different way. We visit with people via telephone or video or by appointment only so we keep our department and the people we serve safe. Our staff continues to telework as much as possible.”

Early on, she explained, “We opened our emergency operations center in conjunction with the Emergency Management Department and we had to open it virtually. It was quite a challenge to figure out how to adapt our emergency plans to fit this type of crisis instead of something like a tornado.”

“We are still in contact on a daily basis with Emergency Management to be sure we are all up to date with the latest information and if supplies or equipment are needed in any areas.”

Public Health staff members also monitor that clinics and hospitals have what they need to perform all their functions and that health care providers have the personal care equipment that they need. Donations of N95 masks, surgical masks, and monetary donations are still greatly appreciated.

Caron noted, “As far as I know our area hospitals are in a Green Status; that is they have an average patient load and our ICU beds are not overwhelmed right now. The ‘Stay at Home’ order that was put into effect was to maintain that very status so our health care facilities weren’t overrun.”

She continued, “As we move through the crisis, we are focusing on making sure people get tested that need to be tested. For example, if you participated in any of the protests precipitated by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis or clean ups of the aftermath of the riots in recent weeks, you should be tested. It was a difficult time to maintain social distancing,” she explained.

Testing is available through Mayo Clinic testing sites in Rochester and in Owatonna.

As far as the future, public health will be heavily involved when a vaccine for COVID 19 becomes available.

For more information, the Public Health pages on the Dodge County website have updated information on Covid 19 cases in the county and other helpful material.