Fifty people have tested positive for COVID-19 through tests administered at Northfield Hospital & Clinics since March.

That number was announced by NH+C President and CEO Steve Underdahl on Thursday during a hospital board meeting. The positive tests are out of the 1,787 total tests taken at the hospital — a 2.7% positivity rate.

Underdahl said the hospital system can now test all symptomatic patients and people who are having procedures or who are hospitalized.

NH+C continues testing anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19. Those can include having a fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, body aches, fatigue, loss of taste or smell or diarrhea. The amount of time it takes to get a COVID-19 test depends on lab capacity.

NH+C expanded COVID-19 testing July 6 to include asymptomatic people who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Exposure is considered being within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes without a mask to a person who has tested positive for the virus.

Still, the health system can’t test people who attended an event and are worried they might have the virus but don’t meet the medical criteria for testing.

NH+C advises anyone who has been exposed to a confirmed case to voluntarily quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.

Hospital admissions statewide from the virus increased from 135 on July 1 to 156 on July 28. The number of ICU patients has also increased during that time, from 123 to 138.

Underdahl said although those numbers aren’t “catastrophic,” they do reveal the increasing toll the virus is playing in Minnesota. In Rice County, 966 cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Of those, 68.5% of people have lived in private residence and 22% — approximately 175 — in prisons. Very few have resided in group homes and long-term care facilities.

Faribault continues to significantly outpace Northfield in terms of positive virus cases. Underdahl noted Faribault has had 791 positive tests while Northfield has seen 132. Anecdotally speaking, Underdahl said he has noticed more Northfielders wearing masks than Faribault residents.

During a NH+C Board meeting last month, HealthFinders Executive Director Charlie Mandile said one-third of the county’s COVID-19 patients identified as Hispanic/Latino and one-third are Black. Those groups are four to five times more represented in case numbers than their population percentages.

Also last month, Rice County Public Health Director Deb Purfeerst noted of the Rice County cases, 23% were white, 35% were black.

At the time, Mandile said he considered those racial disparities to pose a larger problem in Faribault based on the city’s population demographics.

According to information provided by the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota saw five reported COVID-19 deaths from Wednesday to Thursday.

The state has seen 53,692 positive cases and a little more than 1 million completed tests.

The virus is disproportionately fatal for older adults. Although Minnesotans ages 20 to 29 have the most confirmed COVID-19 cases, 1,219 of the 1,594 deaths statewide have been residents of a long-term care or assisted living facility.

Revenue remains under budget

According to statistics presented Thursday by NH+C Chief Financial Officer Scott Edin, hospice visits, inpatient days, outpatient hospital visits, emergency department visits, surgeries and rehabilitation procedures were all significantly under budget in June.

The health system’s net revenue was approximately $813,000 under budget. However, NH+C received nearly $400,000 in COVID-19 related grants.

Expenses were also under budget. Operating expenses in June were $471,000 under, salaries and benefits were $402,000 below budgeted figures, and purchased services were $72,000 under.

Health system net revenue is down approximately $250,000 per week from pre-COVID 19 budget levels due to a decrease in allowance for bad debt.

In early April, NH+C announced its senior staff and directors would take a 10% pay cut and staff would be placed on temporary leaves of absences. The pay cut ended July 18.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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