Hennepin Healthcare urges prevention, vigilance as flu season looms and COVID-19 remains a threat

Essential hospitals across the country call on communities to adhere to recommendations for handwashing, mask wearing, and other protective measures

Hennepin Healthcare has joined Valleywise Health of Phoenix, America’s Essential Hospitals, and a dozen other essential hospitals – those with a safety-net mission – in an urgent call for all Americans to remain vigilant and continue preventative actions to combat the spread of COVID-19.

As the nation faces a potential second surge of COVID-19 with cases on the rise in many states, hospital leaders are imploring the public to double down on safety measures to help keep at-risk people and health care workers safe.

“The surge we saw earlier this spring and summer was devastating,” explains Dr. Jim Miner, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Hennepin Healthcare. The hospital cared for the highest volume of COVID positive patients of any Twin Cities hospital during the initial surge of cases. “We’ve made innovative changes to our emergency department and campus to safely care for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, but of course the ideal scenario is to avoid getting sick.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the country’s underrepresented communities – the same populations commonly served by essential hospitals. Leaders at Hennepin Healthcare are asking the public to maintain the most basic – and effective – health and safety measures to keep people safe. These are known as the three Ws: wear your mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.

“We understand that people are growing tired of hearing prevention messages,” continues Dr. Miner. “So often these messages aren’t taken seriously until an exposure happens to someone you know – or even you. Don’t wait until then. What we’re hearing from patients is that many of their exposures may have been preventable.”

Dr. Miner also encourages everyone to have a conversation with the people they live with to understand their risk of exposure when they are away from home, for example, at work. Are co-workers adhering to safety measures? If not, household members can still practice the 3Ws to avoid bringing the virus home.

There are already more than 8 million cases in the United States and more than 224,000 deaths due to COVID-19. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, COVID-19 cases in our state continue to rise. While cases decreased in many hot spots in the early spring months, infections are rising again in many states, and some experts are concerned deaths will hit 300,000 by the end of the year.

The CDC reports that most COVID-19 infections are spread through contact with an infected person or through exposure to respiratory droplets within a range of 6 feet. Washing your hands often, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart from others are the most effective ways to stop the spread of the virus.

The nation’s essential hospitals and health systems provide access to high-quality care for all people. They serve large volumes of patients from the most vulnerable populations, including the underinsured and uninsured.

Hennepin Healthcare reports increase in number of children injured from ATVs

The summer of 2020 was unique for many reasons – and unfortunately one of them was due to an increased number of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents reported in children.

“We’ve seen at least six children under the age of 17 requiring hospital admission for ATV-related accidents since May,” explains Dr. Stephen Smith, an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare. “These injuries are preventable, and we want to remind parents to put safety first when allowing their kids to ride on or drive these fast-moving vehicles.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 16 – who are too young to have a driver’s license – should not be allowed to operate or ride off-road vehicles. In Minnesota, ATV operators born after July 1, 1987 and OHM (off-highway motorcycle) riders under the age of 16 are required to complete an approved safety course before riding on public lands.

 “Rollovers, crashes, and falling off ATVs are some of the ways injuries can occur,” said Hennepin Healthcare Trauma Prevention Specialist Julie Philbrook, RN. “That’s why following safety guidelines and wearing helmets and other proper protection is so important.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there have been 19 deaths associated with ATVs so far this year.

From 2014-2019, Hennepin Healthcare’s Pediatric Level I Trauma Center admitted 61patients with injuries related to ATVs. That’s an average of 10 pediatric patients per year who are age 17 and under.

“What’s alarming is that the average age of the patients we’ve seen so far this year is 8,” said Philbrook. “We understand that it’s important to have fun, but there’s nothing fun about a serious injury that confines you to the hospital – or even worse, one that costs a life.”

HCMC is a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center and public teaching hospital located in downtown Minneapolis offering a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient pediatric care.