As we move to Stay Safe MN, let’s keep each other safe and healthy.

Last week, Gov. Tim Walz made another step in returning our community to regular operations. We will likely see some differences based on what we have learned about COVID-19 and what we still do not know. It will be important that we all continue to follow basic practices to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe and do what we each have the power to do to avoid spreading this deadly disease.

As health and human services professionals, we have been watching and learning about COVID-19 since reports first emerged in late 2019 and early 2020. We have worked diligently together and with other partners to prepare our community for the impacts of this disease. And while we have flattened the curve so that our supplies were not depleted and our facilities were not overwhelmed, we have not seen the last of COVID-19. In fact, as has been reported by the Minnesota Department of Health and in the media, the rate of infection is increasing in our community. Now that we are moving to resume some activities of normal life, it is important to be mindful that COVID-19 is still in our community and it is up to everyone to keep us all safe and healthy.

We applaud the many places of business, organizations and individuals who have adapted to this new reality and adopted new practices. Hand washing, maintaining appropriate distance from others and wearing a mask when you are in public are proven ways to reduce the spread. Even under ideal circumstances, this highly infectious disease will move from one person to another. That is why it is important that if you do experience any of the symptoms, you should call your health care provider and ask for a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Even if the test is negative, if you do not feel well, stay home and limit your interactions with others until you feel better.

When patients are diagnosed with COVID-19, they are required to self-isolate until the infection is cleared, often for at least two weeks. Self-isolation is not always easy and our public health departments are able to help with essential services where needed. Fortunately, the majority of people who do become infected with COVID-19 are able to recover at home and do not need to go to the hospital.

We look forward to life resuming in ways we can all enjoy. The most important thing to understand is that we all do better when we all do our part. Thank you for being considerate and practicing these simple ways to keep our community healthy and strong.

Please practice the following in order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities:

• Wear a mask in public: I wear a mask to protect you. You wear a mask to protect me.

• Keep your physical distance: Six feet or about two arms’ lengths apart from other people.

• Wash your hands with soap: simple and effective.

• Stay home if you do not feel well.

• Get a test if you have COVID symptoms. Call your local healthcare provider to schedule a test.

• Self-isolate if you have been around someone who is sick or tested positive.

• If you can’t go to work, talk to your employer.

• If you have been instructed to stay in isolation or quarantine due to COVID, and you need help with essential services to help you be able to stay at home, call your local public health department.

There are many resources for employers, workers, and communities, including resources in different languages, to provide you with additional education and information about COVID-19:

• Steele County Public Health: co.steele.mn.us/divisions/community_services/public_health/coronavirus_(covid-19).php

• Rice County Public Health: co.rice.mn.us/492/Coronavirus-disease-COVID-19-Current-Sit

• Rice County Public Health Facebook — facebook.com/RiceCountyPublicHealth

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cdc.gov

• Minnesota Department of Health health.state.mn.us

• Mayo Clinic Health System COVID-19 website mayoclinichealthsystem.org/covid19, Mayo Clinic Health System Hometown Health blog mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health, Mayo Clinic News Network newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/category/covid-19, Mayo Clinic Health System Facebook facebook.com/MayoClinicHealthSystem and Allina Health resource page — allinahealth.org/coronavirus-covid-19

Stay safe MN. Stay safe right here in our communities.

Amy Caron is the Dodge-Steele CHS Administrator, Dodge and Steele Counties Public Health Director. Deb Purfeerst, Rice County Public Health Director and David Albrecht is the President of District One and Owatonna Hospitals. Brian Bunkers, M.D., CEO, Mayo Clinic Health System Owatonna and Faribault.

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