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More than 900 Mayo Clinic staff members diagnosed with Covid-19 in Midwest over two weeks

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. More than 900 Mayo Clinic staff members were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the Midwest over two weeks. Credit: NIAID-RML

    (CNN) — More than 900 staff members across the Midwest Mayo Clinic system have been diagnosed with Covid-19 over the last 14 days, a spokesperson told CNN.

That’s about 30% of the total number who have tested positive since March.

“Our staff are being infected mostly due to community spread (93% of staff infections), and this impacts our ability to care for patients,” Kelley Luckstein wrote to CNN in a Wednesday email.

Across the Midwest, Mayo Clinic currently has about 1,500 staff members with work restrictions related to Covid-19 exposures or diagnosis, Luckstein said.

The Midwest Mayo Clinic system consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve patients in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Midwestern states have been hit especially hard in the latest round of Covid-19 case surges — with Minnesota’s governor announcing new measures this week to help curb the spread and Wisconsin’s governor declaring a new state of emergency.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds overcame her previous resistance to mask mandates and announced a new health order requiring masks indoors, saying hospitals have been pushed to the brink by the spread of the virus.

Like other health care systems, Mayo Clinic hasn’t been spared from the pandemic’s devastating effects.

“There are three things you need to take care of any patient,” Dr. Amy Williams, the executive dean of the Mayo Clinic practice said in a Covid-19 update this week. “Space, supplies and staff. And what we are most worried about is staff.”

Staff members are getting exposed and infected with the virus mostly in the community, Williams said. And while some Americans may be getting tired of hearing about safety measures like wearing masks and regularly washing hands, it’s important to continue taking those precautions as the virus continues spreading rampantly throughout the country, she said.

“We’re doing this because we care about our communities,” Williams said in the update. “We don’t want families to be sick. We don’t want families to lose loved ones. We want everyone to be safe. We will get through this, but we need to be safe, we need to protect each other.”

‘We need your help and we need it now’

Parts of the health system have already been overwhelmed by the surge in patients, while other facilities are preparing for what’s to come.

In northwest Wisconsin, the Mayo Clinic Health System said last week that 100% of its hospital beds were full.

“The public urgently needs to treat COVID-19 as the health emergency it is to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed,” the health system said in last week’s statement.

At the time, about 50% of the ICU capacity was occupied by Covid-19 patients, the system said in a statement, and added that Covid-19 patients that are treated in the hospital normally stay about two to three times longer than non-Covid-19 patients.

“While we are temporarily deferring elective procedures in order to free up beds for COVID-19 patients, the public needs to understand we continue to care for other patient populations in addition to COVID patients — we remain open for trauma, emergency care, and urgent care needs while also caring for COVID patients.”

“We need your help and we need it now.”

Meanwhile, Williams said in a media briefing this week that Mayo Clinic was boosting its ICU capacity in a Rochester, Minnesota, hospital to be able to handle a surge in Covid-19 patients.

She added the system expects to see a jump in hospitalization rates over the next two to four weeks.

“We continue to see an increase in the number of patients in our communities that are getting Covid-19. We continue to see that translate to more and more hospitalizations,” she said in a video update.

In the video update, Williams said they’re also seeing more patients transferred from hospitals outside of the Mayo Clinic Health System.

“Which just tells us hospitals elsewhere, in Minnesota, in Iowa, in the Dakotas, in surrounding states, are overwhelmed because of this surge.”

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How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States