St. Luke's & Essentia Health weigh in on COVID-19 response

Emily Ness
Updated: March 26, 2020 06:19 PM

When the surge of COVID-19 will take place in the Northland, how many people it will impact and how long it will last are questions that doctors from St. Lukes and Essentia Health say they cannot answer definitively. However, doctors continue to emphasize that the longer they have to prepare for the surge, the better the outcome for patients will be.


During a press conference Thursday, doctors reinforced the importance of ICU beds and ventilators in treating patients.

“That patient could be you or a friend or a loved one,” Dr. Jon Pryor, President of Essentia Health East Market said.

According to doctors, these items, along with other essential items like masks remain a shortage across the state and nation. But, both St. Luke’s and Essentia Health are working with their regional partners and each other to gain more supplies.

“Supplies—you know, we don’t have the supplies we need and then some supplies show up and then we don’t have supplies,” Pryor said.

St. Lukes and Essentia Health are also striving to utilize their staff to the fullest.

"We are working diligently with many of our employees who are in parts of the organization that don't have a lot of work right now. We are building labor pools and re-purposing their skills through training to get them ready to help with the surge when it arrives,” Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen, Chief Medical Officer at St. Luke’s said.

Additionally, both hospitals aim to re-purpose spaces at their own facilities and neighboring facilities to take in more patients. They say, at some point, an additional facility may be necessary.

“We're looking to our other hospitals that typically don't take as sick of patients, but how can we use them when the surge happens and we run out of beds here. We're probably going to have to be thinking beyond that, such as, do we get an external facility ready for us,” Pryor said.

In order to insure they have the staff and space to care for the ill, both hospitals will utilize predictive modeling to scale the size of a potential outbreak.

"We need to plan for every contingency and we know that at a certain point, we may need a third facilty,” Van Deelen said.

According to doctors, for the vast majority of patients, symptoms of COVID-19 will be mild.

“If you suspect you have COVID-19, but you are otherwise well meaning you’re not short of breath and you’re able to eat and drink, you’re able to care for yourself—you should stay home, isolate yourself from others and do that for seven days after the onset of the illness or 72 hours after your fever resolves—whichever is longer. If you have difficulty breathing, then you need to access care,” Van Deelen said.

Testing remains limited, however, hospitals stress that they have telehealth and e-care available on their websites, as well as, hotlines that people can call to inquire about their health. St. Luke’s resources can be found here and Essentia Health’s resources can be found here.

As of Thursday, Essentia Health said they have tested 645 people and St. Lukes said they have tested 185 people.

In order to prevent the spread of the disease, doctors ask the public to abide by Governor Tim Walz’ Safer at Home ordinance.


Emily Ness

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