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.

The Fair at Hennepin Healthcare offers employees 12 days of socially distant fun

Since January, Hennepin Healthcare employees have been focused on COVID-19. From emergency planning to caring for many of the state’s sickest patients, it’s been an extremely busy year so far.   

Hennepin Healthcare has always been very involved in the Minnesota State Fair and when it was cancelled, a creative team planned 12 days of socially distant fun for their colleagues. There’s something for everyone – including Hennepin’s cookie jars, a quarantine photo contest, music, art, and other ways for employees to enjoy fair-themed activities during what would be the 2020 Minnesota State Fair.

Dr. David Hilden at the
Minnesota State Fair

“We’ve all been working so hard this year,” explains Dr. David Hilden, Vice President of Medical Affairs who is also serving as “Ambassador” of the Fair at Hennepin Healthcare. Many of us are missing our families and friends, are actually longing for some human contact, and are bummed out about missing our traditional end-of-summer ritual of the State Fair. Many of us haven’t seen one another for months, and many of us who have been on campus have been working around the clock caring for critically ill patients or supporting those who do. We really need a bit of frivolity to boost our spirits. And although I’ll miss standing on that WCCO radio porch doing live State Fair shows, I’m still really excited about our ‘virtual’ Great Hennepin Get-Together!”

Dr. Hilden and his co-Ambassador, Bernie the Rescue Dog, kicked off the festivities with a video that can be found along with a list of events at www.hennepinhealthcare.org/fair, where there’s also a photo scrapbook of Hennepin Healthcare memories from the Fair.

“We’re 7000 employees strong,” said Dr. Hilden. “We’re strong for each other and we’re strong for our patients and families. I really believe that. And even if we can’t walk the fairgrounds with our friends, we can still have fun as a Hennepin family. We’re all looking forward to celebrating a Minnesota tradition in our own safe, fun way.”