Coronavirus hasn’t hit Grand Forks as hard as other areas of the state and country, but it continues to affect us all in all areas of our lives. The way we go about our business has changed. Hand sanitizer, masks, and physical distancing are now part of daily life.

We watch and read of the struggles of essential workers. We worry for our families and our friends across the country. Five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Altru Health System’s front-line staff continue to battle the pandemic daily.

At Altru, we’ve seen an increase in testing needs over the past few weeks. We’re testing as many as 250 people each day for COVID-19. That’s up from an average of around 80 in April and May. Altru tests people who are symptomatic, or people who are asymptomatic but have contact with a positive case. For the safety of our patients and staff, we are also testing patients before they have a surgery or a procedure.

Throughout this pandemic, safety remains our number one priority. We appreciate our partnership with public health and their efforts in mass testing events, an important component for understanding and managing this disease. These are most often available for anyone wanting a test.

Our supplies of PPE are stable and we’re constantly working to assure an adequate supply. In the weeks ahead, conservation is key for our employees as gowns, masks and shields are the tools protecting us as we care for you. Our team is resilient and as over the last few months we faced tough challenges. Each time our staff has risen to the occasion. This latest uptick in cases will be no different. Altru Health System will be here for our community.

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We must not turn away from the only tools we have to fight COVID-19. Those remain physical distancing, wearing a mask, and frequent handwashing. Studies by some medical experts show wearing masks can even decrease the risk of infection to the wearer by 65 percent. At Altru, we require a mask of all staff, patients and visitors. This is a simple step to maintaining safe care environments for all. Please use physical distancing and wear masks when possible. These gestures could save a life.

Thank you for your commitment to the health of our community. Altru is here for you, always.

Dr. Joshua Deere is medical director of primary care at Altru Health System, Grand Forks.