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FEMA sends clinicians to central Minnesota communities hard hit by COVID-19

Wadena, Staples, Onamia and Mall of America have a team of FEMA personnel on site to help with COVID-19 staffing needs.

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Tri-County Health Care. Photo courtesy Tri-County Health Care

WADENA, MInn. — Hit by a surge of positive COVID-19 cases and the need for hospital staffing, a team of Federal Emergency Management Agency clinicians arrived for orientation training at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena on Friday, Dec. 3.

The Minnesota Department of Health, in conjunction with FEMA, has mobilized several clinician groups across central Minnesota, a total of 16 personnel.

Tri-County Health Care serves some of the most hard hit communities in recent weeks in and around Wadena, Todd and Otter Tail counties. Less than 20 miles to the east, Lakewood Health Systems in Staples is another hospital to benefit from FEMA's response to a urgent need for staffing to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 70 miles to the east is Onamia, where they too are receiving help from FEMA staff. FEMA has also arrived in Bloomington, at the Mall of America, where they are administering vaccines only.

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Prior to FEMA being called in, TCHC was also getting extra help in the fight from other staff members including nursing staff from other departments and administrative staff in mid-November. These staff members currently serve in non-medical roles but were trained to assist nurses with a variety of tasks in an infusion center. Their help allowed nurses to focus on patients. The infusion center is meant to keep local patients from having to seek help in larger cities.
In Wadena County on Friday, where 48.1% of those eligible have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, there were 13 new cases for an overall total of 3,060 cases in a county of about 14,000 people. The case rate in Wadena County, as of Friday, was 621.25 per 100,000, and there was a 16.17% positivity rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Neighboring TOdd County is up against similar issues with just 46.5% of those eligible receiving at least one dose.

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The CDC reported four new hospital admissions in Wadena County over the last week on Friday. MDH reported Thursday, Dec. 2, one staffed adult ICU bed is available in the Central region with 1% of beds available in the region.

More than 70 percent of state residents age 5 and older have received at least one vaccination shot, with more than 71 percent now completely vaccinated. The state is also seeing progress in getting booster shots into Minnesotans who’ve already been vaccinated.

In places like Wadena and Todd counties the struggle continues to get first shots into more residents.

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