Incident command response team closes active operations, to monitor COVID-19 pandemic

Due to increasing rates of people vaccinated for COVID-19 and continued low incidence of hospitalized patients and low infection rates, Lake Region Healthcare (LRH) and Prairie Ridge Healthcare (PRH) have made several changes to return to pre-Covid status in areas deemed safe to do so. 

“As we move out of the extreme COVID-intensity we’ve operated under for over 15 months, it’s a relief to see the data supporting the changes we are making to help feel like we’re getting back to some normalcy,” said LRH CEO Kent Mattson. “We’ve been here for you through the entire pandemic, and we can finally now say we are open and ready to see you without many of the obstacles to accessing care that had to be in place for everyone’s safety during the earlier days of this pandemic.” 

Mattson said the Incident Command response team has closed their active operations, but continues to keep a steady eye on the data and metrics to monitor any uptick or increase in the disease. Among the changes being made over the next few weeks are a lifting of most visitor restrictions and transition of the COVID nurse line and drive through testing into everyday clinic operations. 

“The vast majority of the special activities and processes that surrounded COVID are no longer in need of crisis management and are being further normalized into safe everyday operations,” Mattson said. 

In general, Mattson said most COVID-19 related protocols are “back to normal” at LRH and PRH with a few exceptions: 

• All patients and visitors entering our facility continue to be asked COVID-19 screening questions and are required to wear masks in the facility in accordance with CDC and MDH guidelines for healthcare settings. 

Visitor restrictions were lifted and back to pre-COVID-19 standards as of June 16 with these exceptions:

• No visitors are allowed for COVID-19 positive hospitalized patients.

• One visitor per patient at the Cancer Center.

• Clinic patients are encouraged to limit the number of people who accompany them to clinic visits to one-two persons per visit to help reduce waiting area crowding. Exceptions to accommodate family groups will be made as needed.

Per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for health care facilities, masks are still required in all LRH and PRH facilities, even for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We know that masking is not the norm outside healthcare sites, but we will continue to follow the requirements and recommendations of the agencies that oversee us, and ask our patients and visitors to mask until further guideance is given,” Mattson said.

Starting July 6, patients with respiratory or COVID-19 like symptoms will again be able to see their regular primary care/pediatric providers.  With that transition is made, the drive through testing line will close and testing will be done at clinic locations. 

The Walk-In Clinic has already returned to safe normal processes for all patients and no longer requires an appointment to be made for those who are experiencing respiratory symptoms.  

These changes will help streamline  and provide comprehensive and private COVID-19 care from their primary care provider. Additional vaccine clinics will also be scheduled over the course of the summer to meet the needs of students and others as demands present.  

“We’d really like to encourage more people to get the vaccine as new variants of the virus continue to develop and spread,” Mattson said. “While science is not yet clear on the vaccine effectiveness against certain variants, we do know that the overwhelming number of people experiencing serious COVID illness recently, regardless of strain, are  not vaccinated. Vaccination reduces overall transmission—and thus the chances for mutations and variants—and in many cases can protect against variants. That’s why it’s so important for all who are eligible to get vaccinated.”