Northfield Hospital and Clinics President/CEO Steve Underdahl called for caution on Thursday as approximately half of U.S. states see spikes in COVID-19 and Minnesota sees a continued decline in hospitalizations from the virus.

To Underdahl, Minnesota officials need to remain logical and vigilant in the re-opening process. He said he’s disappointed that mask wearing and social distancing have become somewhat partisan issues, adding that he is aware that disease transmission rates vary drastically between mask wearers and those who don’t.

Because of that, Underdahl said the U.S. overall is trending upward in terms of COVID-19 and certain states that were trending positively are have seen that progress deteriorate. He expressed concern that in the fall, COVID-19 could pair with seasonal influenza and wreak exceptional havoc.

In Minnesota, outdoor gatherings are being limited to 25 or less, while indoor get-togethers are limited to a maximum of 10. Retail establishments can be open at 50% capacity, but must have a COVID-19 preparedness plan. Restaurants and bars can open to 50% of capacity, not to exceed 250 people for indoors and outdoors settings.

The issue of hospital capacity gained urgency across the nation late last week as Florida, Texas, California, Arizona and other states reported skyrocketing case numbers. Governors have repeatedly invoked hospital capacity in arguing against new business restrictions, though the dynamic began to shift Friday when Texas and Florida clamped down on bars amid an increasing number of COVID-19 case.

In Minnesota, however, hospitalizations from COVID-19 are falling and death numbers plateauing. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 35,549 cases have been reported statewide, and of those, 30,809 no longer need isolation. In Rice County, 804 cases have been reported with six deaths as of Monday.

Ten more deaths were reported Monday from the virus statewide. Overall, 1,435 deaths have been reported in Minnesota since the outbreak. Of those, 1,129 were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. There have been 35 probable COVID-19 deaths statewide, in which the disease was listed on a death certificate but a positive test wasn’t documented.

Those who are over the age of 65 or who have a number of underlying conditions — obesity, chronic kidney disease, COPD, immunocompromisation, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes mellitus — are at greatest risk.

NH+C Board member Fred Rogers said Monday he is unsure of how COVID-19 will continue to progress as the months wear on, adding people need to continue to be cautious to prevent a large spike in cases. He said he has seen mixed local acceptance of social distancing and mask guidelines. To him, the most effective step people can take is wearing masks in public.

“People should take precautions to protect their own health, separate from the hospital’s needs,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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