National Immunization Awareness Month: Getting the jab!

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The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated every aspect of life. For the initial months of the pandemic, we were at the mercy of the virus while it targeted people in every phase of life. The pandemic and its economic and social factors forced a race for a vaccine. After months of testing, the vaccines emerged giving everyone hope for a return to a normal life. However, vaccine hesitancy continues to be an ongoing issue. Fortunately, In the face of the delta variant, vaccinations are increasing. August is National Immunization Awareness Month and now is a perfect opportunity for a fresh start.

We as a society have seen the constant news coverage and public addresses. All of this information can lead to mental exhaustion but we cannot lose sight of our goal. For a time, we removed the masks and ventured out, only to put the masks right back on. Understandably, this is depressing but we do have hope. We still have the best weapon against COVID-19 and its current variants. August is the time to take a fresh look at the COVID-19 pandemic as a problem that we can solve with medical science and solidarity.

Use this blog as a point of reflection. As we gear up for the new school year, sports and August gatherings, just know those things would be safer after getting the vaccine.

Voices of TCHC staff

Its important to hear a variety of perspective on such a pressing issue. Several members of Tri-County staff shared their personal thoughts on the vaccine and why they chose to be vaccinated.

Teenagers are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine with a parental permission

The COVID-19 vaccine is available for people 12 and older.

“While I have limited knowledge of vaccinations, I knew right away that getting the vaccine was at the top of my priority list. Many people are hesitant to get the vaccine due to the political pressure surrounding it, however I never felt that it was a political decision. I made the decision to get the vaccine because I didn’t want COVID to control my life anymore.” – Jessica Frank

“It was simple for me. I do not want to get COVID. Spreading COVID to the people I care about is always a concern. I believe the vaccine is safe.” – Debbie Sly

“I chose to receive the vaccine because I believe in the advances that have been made in medical science. My husband has COPD and is oxygen dependent during the night and has many other diagnosis’ that puts him at high risk. We both received our vaccines as soon as they were available even knowing that they are not guaranteed to be 100 percent effective.” – Brenda Niemela

Abbey Truh and vaccine clinics

In the initial months of vaccine distribution, production issues stifled rollout. There was a great deal of demand but so few vaccines to go around. Attempting to get the vaccine to the people who needed it was an immense challenge. Abbey Truh, a registered nurse at Tri-County Health Care, was chosen to spearhead vaccine clinics. To get a vaccine at Tri-County Health Care, you have to go through Abbey at some point.

For several months Abbey and her team have organized COVID-19 vaccine clinics

Abbey Truh, RN

“Education is a huge part of putting patients at ease,” said Abbey when asked about her experience organizing the clinics. A constant factor of her job is educating people when they walk through the door. Many are on the fence; some are just scared and some simply lack the understanding of how the vaccine can protect them. Abbey has been following the creation of these vaccines from the start. She knows them inside and out. Most of all, she understands the end goal, getting to herd immunity.

Like with other nurses and providers, Abbey is tired and wants to return to normal operations but that can’t happen until we reach herd immunity. Abbey cites rampant misinformation and untrustworthy news sources as a major issue for vaccine hesitancy. People are simply not getting the right information from a trusted source and are instead retreating to social media only to find harmful takes and conspiracies.

Crunching the numbers

To date, Tri-County Health Care has administered 4,498 COVID-19 vaccines with the Pfizer vaccine being the predominant vaccine available. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 5,123 people have received at least one dose in Wadena County. Currently 13, 654 people reside in Wadena County which puts us at roughly 38 percent vaccinated. To achieve herd immunity, we must reach 70-80 percent. National Immunization Awareness Month is a great chance to push for 50 percent. Half of our county population vaccinated would be a big milestone in the fight against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine has exploded in availability over the last few months and is readily available in most places. Please consult your provider or utilize an online resource to find a COVID-19 vaccination site nearby.

More voices of TCHC staff

“I was more scared of getting COVID than the vaccine. The mask and the vaccine work because I assist people confirmed with COVID and I haven’t gotten it yet.” – Vonnie Perius

“I had COVID-19 before Thanksgiving and I was really sick. Two weeks later my husband got really sick with COVID as well. We didn’t want to get it again and so we decided to get the vaccine. We didn’t have any side effects from getting the vaccine. As far as we are concerned, it was worth getting the shot.” – Diane Crabb

“For myself and my children, there was no question if we would be vaccinated or not. I work with such a high-risk population (newborns) that I choose to vaccinate for myself, my family, and my patients’ health. I see a lot of patients who choose not to vaccinate their children, a few who choose to wait on the vaccines until the baby is a little older, and a few who want to space them out.  It is a very personal decision that I hope no one makes lightly.” – Sarah Riedel

The only tool we have

During an interview, Bobbi Adams, M.D., revealed her personal feelings about the pandemic and the vaccine. She discussed difficulties the providers and medical staff encountered after COVID-19 became prevalent in the area. Dr. Adams misses life before the pandemic and yearns to communicate with her patients unhindered by masks and layers of PPE. From her perspective, the only way to get back to normal life is to get the vaccine.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

During National Immunization Awareness Month, Tri-County Health Care wants to vaccinate as many people as possible. Pfizer vaccine clinics will be held every Thursday in August. The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also available. Patients can also get the vaccine during a normal provider appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 218-631-3510. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media or visit for regular updates.

Coping with COVID-19 during the holidays

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COVID-19 has changed much about our society over the last year. It may seem like coping with COVID-19 during the holidays is just one more change to navigate. The holidays have changed with the pandemic. In years past, December would be a time for Christmas parties and family gatherings but that isn’t possible this year. Tri-County Health Care wants you to enjoy the holidays safely. We offer these tips to enjoy the 2020 holiday season.

Stay Home and stay safe

This is the one time of year families can set aside work and gather with family, but things have to be a little different this time around. Instead of making the long trek to grandma’s house, keep everyone safe by staying home. Holiday gatherings are a risk to become super spreader events. Meeting for Christmas dinner isn’t worth spreading COVID-19. This year, take a break from the icy roads and fruit cake.

Embrace technology this year

The gift of technology

Embrace technology this year. Most have been blessed with a smartphone. Often this little plastic rectangle dominates our lives and causes a certain amount of stress but it is also a great tool for communication. It allows us to connect to our loved ones who may live hundreds of miles away. Call your family members, use video chat and learn to love technology. Technology exists to make life easier; let’s let it do that. This year, save a spot around the Christmas tree for an iPad.

Don’t go it alone

Spending time with your immediate family is great but not everyone has family they live with. This can be a little depressing…but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t spend the holiday alone, find creative ways to connect with others without standing in the same room. Take this opportunity to explore social media. There are a myriad of groups, channels and pages dedicated to spreading Christmas cheer. If you’re feeling lonely, jump on Facebook and enjoy some cat videos or check out other online communities that focus on an area of interest.

New traditions

Instead of pining over past Christmases, look to the future. Use this year as an opportunity to create new traditions that can be passed down for generations. The holidays have become increasingly corporate and materialistic over the years. Break this downward trend and use this year to come up with new ways to enjoy the holidays. Challenge yourself to learn a new Christmas recipe. Flex your arts and crafts skills and make custom ornaments or decorations. Even doing something a simple as playing a board game or watching a Christmas movie could liven things up.

Christmas 2020 needs to be a little different

The pandemic won’t last forever and we’ve all been given a little hope. A vaccine is currently being distributed to frontline workers and it could bring an end to the pandemic. Use this time to reflect. Tolerating COVID-19 during the holidays doesn’t have to overshadow the good tidings this time of year should bring.

Tri-County Health Care is taking extensive measures to safeguard the health of its employees and patients. Check out this page for more information about COVID-19 and how Tri-County Health Care is putting your health first.

Managing COPD during a pandemic

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Managing COPD during the pandemic COVID-19 Tri-County Health Care Respiratory breathingIn November 2018, the Tri-Living Well blog featured Doug Stromberg, IT Supervisor at Tri-County Health Care. Doug suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing. Managing COPD during a pandemic is challenging and shedding light on his experience could help others.

Doug has dealt with respiratory problems for years. He started smoking as a teenager and kept smoking until he was in his thirties. In 2017, things took an intense turn. After a bout of breathing issues, Doug was diagnosed with COPD and had to use a nebulizer.

After problems mounted and Doug’s quality of life dropped, he decided to meet with Bobbi Adams, M.D. Doug was given stronger medication which vastly improved his living situation. The nebulizer is now retired and he was able to return to a relatively normal life.

Where is he now?

Doug still works at Tri-County in the IT department, although his office looks a little different these days. Since the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off, Doug has taken refuge in his office bunker at home. People with COPD are considered immune-compromised and Doug takes his health very seriously. He has limited his exposure to others and receives supplies by delivery only. He utilizes masks, face shields, gloves and does everything he can to keep COVID-19 at bay.

“COPD can’t get better; it will only worsen over time. My goal at this point is to do everything I can to slow the progression of the disease. And there are certain strategies for doing just that,” said Doug about the status of his condition. Protecting his respiratory system is paramount during these times. Contracting COVID-19 could easily kill him. Doug continues to use an inhaled steroid twice a day. He still has an inhaler but seldom needs it. This treatment provided by Dr. Adams and the Tri-County staff is still working great.

Advice for others

Doug urges others that suffer from COPD to make lifestyle changes. Stop smoking is his main advice. Working with a health care provider is also important. The provider will prescribe medication and develop a plan for managing the disease. Doug found Dr. Adams at Tri-County Health Care and it changed his life for the better.

Managing COPD during a pandemic causes unique problems. COVID-19 directly affects the lungs and can be fatal if combined with COPD. If you suffer from COPD and need a consultation, please contact Tri-County Health Care at 218-631-3510.

Doug is the IT Supervisor at Tri-County Health Care Managing COPD during a pandemic Respiratory breathing

 About Doug: Doug Stromberg works in the IT department at Tri-County Health Care. He is a longtime Wadena resident and a graduate of Wadena-Deer Creek schools. Doug has worked in technology for over 40 years. His background includes work in the telephone industry, cable television, radio broadcast engineering and many years as an instructor at Wadena Technical College (now M State). Prior to coming to work at TCHC, Doug operated a technical services company in partnership with his son, Mike. Doug is married to Jeannie and has two sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. His interests include his lake cabin and following Minnesota sports.

COVID-19 vaccine: Everything you need to know

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The announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine has many breathing a sigh of relief. Several months of staying home, social distancing, and wearing masks has led to a major change in everyday life. People are in a hurry to return to the way things were and a vaccine seems like the only way out. Others are more hesitant; they may believe the vaccine has not passed through proper testing.

This article is designed to be a fact sheet about the upcoming vaccines. It is a condensed and simplified record of information gathered from sources like the Minnesota Department of Health, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Operation Warp Speed

Operation Warp Speed (OWS) combines scientific testing and government quality control. Essentially, OWS removes several administrative hurdles during the production of an effective vaccine. The methodology associated with OWS uses processes that would normally take years and compresses them down. This change is done by running the various steps simultaneously rather than one at a time.

Medical workers and seniors will be among the first to get the vaccine.

The breakdown

Creating an effective vaccine requires multiple steps and extensive testing. Generally, the process includes:

  • Methodology and lab research
  • FDA approval for clinical trials
  • Volunteer testing
  • Safety and efficacy testing in a large group
  • Large population testing with control groups
  • Final FDA approval
  • Distribution

The facts

  1. There is currently no approved vaccine available in the United States. Testing is underway, and a vaccine is expected before 2021.
  2. You will not contract COVID-19 by receiving the vaccine. The vaccines do not use a live virus. It will be similar to other widely used vaccines. It may cause symptoms like fatigue or muscle pain. These symptoms mean the vaccine is working.
  3. COVID-19 vaccination will not make you test positive for COVID-19. You may test positive for antibodies. This positive antibody test suggests either a previous infection or that the vaccine successfully created antibodies.
  4. People who were previously infected with COVID-19 should still consider being vaccinated. Studies suggest that reinfection is possible, and antibodies may last just a few months.
  5. Testing shows that receiving the vaccine does provide antibodies in around 90 percent of people. Receiving the vaccine could be the best option for fighting COVID-19.
  6. The vaccine was not rushed. Instead, administrative red tape was removed. The development and testing trials are still extensive.
  7. Once distribution begins, the first rounds of the vaccine will most likely go to health care workers and people with compromised immune systems.
  8. The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory.
  9. The COVID-19 vaccine will be available at no cost. However, providers of the vaccination will be able to charge an office visit fee.
  10. An mRNA vaccine will not harm your DNA. mRNA, which stands for messenger ribonucleic acid, makes protein. It does not interact with DNA at any point.

The problem with herd immunity

Herd immunity is a common talking point but is likely impossible to achieve. This form of immunity implies that a large enough section of the population has contracted the virus and is resistant. Herd immunity is not a reliable strategy for combating COVID-19. It is due to a lack of important data about transmission frequency after infection. We do not know how long it takes from initial infection for a person to be vulnerable again.

The race for a vaccine

At this time, five vaccines are being tested. These vaccines are being tested by:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Janssen
  • Moderna
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer

AHA, AMA, ANA seeks safe COVID-19 vaccine

Recently, the American Health Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association addressed the American people about the status of the COVID-19 vaccine. They have given their full support to the creation of a safe vaccine. All three groups consider it to be the best option for safeguarding communities around the world. They cited the importance of scientific testing, safe distribution and total transparency about the vaccine within the address. They collectively want people to know the benefits and risks associated with the vaccine.

Become informed

The rate of vaccine production might seem like a cause for concern, but it is not. The same level of quality control used in the past is present with the manufacturing of these vaccines. The creation of these vaccines is the combination of good science and a unified need for relief.

For more information about how Tri-County Health Care and how it has been combating COVID-19, visit

COVID-19 Requires Unified Response

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We have reached a serious and critical point in our efforts to battle COVID-19. COVID-19 requires a unified response now. This virus is not only affecting those overseas or in densely populated areas; it has made its way to rural central Minnesota and is currently spreading quickly right here in our own backyard. Cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks. The trajectory of these cases is predicted to increase throughout the holiday season.Tri-County Health Care COVID Todd County Wadena County Health Partners Germs Hand Hygiene

Healthcare facilities and their respective staff have watched as larger regional hospitals within the state have been overrun. Bed space has been depleted; there is no more room. That means COVID-positive individuals that may have otherwise been transferred to a larger hospital must seek care locally, increasing the strain on our local hospitals which are also near capacity. If this trend continues, this crisis will quickly increase and affect our ability to provide care to those who need it. People who could have been saved may succumb to COVID-19.

As the holidays draw near, healthcare leaders in the area have come together to plead that you celebrate responsibly this holiday season. These gatherings can be a significant source of spread and risk the lives of family members and friends. It may not be easy, but we ask you please try to find safe alternatives to these gatherings. Stay home. Call your loved ones or use video chat to communicate.

Fighting this virus requires a unified front, not just from hospitals but from every single individual. Everyone needs to practice physical distancing, wash your hands regularly, only leave home when absolutely necessary and wear a mask when in public.

COVID-19 is not a hoax or conspiracy. It is a very real virus affecting us all. The recent COVID-19 surge requires unified response. Please take this message seriously. For us to return to normal life as soon as possible, it must be earned with great effort and genuine care for others.

Thank you and stay well,

Daniel J Swenson
Administrator, CentraCare – Long Prairie

Joel Beiswenger
President & CEO, Tri-County Health Care

Tim Rice
President & CEO, Lakewood Health System

Jackie Och
Director, Todd County Health & Human Services

Cindy Pederson
Director, Wadena County Public Health

Flu Season is Back

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As temperatures grow colder, the flu season is raging back. Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and battling the influenza season will place an excessive strain on the health care industry. That is why medical professionals urge everyone to receive their flu shot this year.

Sebeka Clinic fights the flu

On Oct. 13, Janice Hiedeman went to the Sebeka Clinic to get her flu shot. She used this opportunity to safeguard her health while indirectly helping others. From the start, she experienced an environment where her health was a top priority. That is because the Sebeka Clinic, like all Tri-County Health Care locations, has employed measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 All patients entered through the front and exited through the back to prevent face to face contact. Signage organized patients and staff within the building. The message of social distancing was always evident.

“I really liked that everyone was very professional and friendly,” said Janice when asked about her appointment. The pandemic has made receiving care a lot different, but many of the new changes made Janice’s appointment easy and anxiety-free.

Janice was impressed with the speed of the process. Within 10 minutes, she was admitted, received her shot and was on her way. Janice doesn’t care for waiting in the lobby so she was relieved. She commented that receiving the shot was painless.

On the day Janice visited the Sebeka Clinic, 150 people got their flu shot.

Getting a flu shot is important

Everyone 6 months or older should receive a flu shot. Compromised individuals and adults over 65 are at an even higher risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 39 million people were affected by the flu from Oct. 1, 2019, through Apr. 4, 2020. A flu vaccine will help reduce the burden on our health care systems. The illness reduction allows health care staff to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently.

To schedule your flu shot, please call 218-631-3510.

Flu Shot Flu season influenza Tri-County Health Care Sebeka Clinic COVID-19 Coronavirus

Social Distancing: Navigating the new normal

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When I was in Mrs. Basche’s 5th grade class, I had an obsession with two things: chewing gum and brushing my hair. Chewing gum wasn’t allowed in class or school but that wasn’t enough of a deterrent for me. I liked gum and spent my allowance on it, so it was mine to chew where and when I wanted. It was the early 80’s so hair was a big deal and working on becoming an even bigger deal! I had this cool Goody-brand brush that I absolutely loved which I purchased from Sterling Drug Store with my allowance (along with a jumbo Lip Smackers in Tootsie Roll flavor).

Mrs. Basche didn’t share my enthusiasm for chewing gum and brushing my hair. First of all, chewing gum was illegal (oh, the elementary school crimes!) and she didn’t allow it in her classroom. If she found that a student had gum, they were required to take it out of their mouth and put it on their nose for the rest of the school distancing in the supermarket

The punishment was social shaming.

She took a different approach with my obsession for brushing my hair. She took me aside and said that I need to “calm down the brushing” and perhaps consider only brushing my hair before and after school — not during her class as my hair might fall out from all that brushing. This was more of a deterrent than anything else she could have mentioned!

Lately, I feel like, even though I am – ahem — so many years old, I have felt more and more like that 5th grade version of myself.  No, I am not obsessively brushing my hair and chewing gum while quarantined (it’s a call for help if that starts happening!), but I am not sure how to act or behave. I am not sure I completely understand the rules of the Coronavirus mitigation and I don’t want to be socially shamed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am following the rules and staying in quarantine and isolation whenever possible. However, I find myself in a few situations where I actually see other human beings that aren’t related to and live with me and that aren’t on Zoom or FaceTime.

I was at the grocery store the other day looking for some ingredients to make fajitas or street tacos (I will say that staying home has made me think outside the box on my food menu — there is only so many days of enthusiasm for goulash, spaghetti, tacos, and hot dogs. I thought the world was going to explode when I announced to my family (all men, mind you) that we were going to have a salad for supper. A salad, nothing more — just salad with a lot of fresh cut veggies. There was almost a full-out revolt. I conceded and asked: “would you like a type of protein with it?” My son replied: “you mean, like meat?”

Woman wearing face mask buying grocery in supermarket during Covid-19 pandemic. Female with a shopping cart purchasing some food items in supermarket.An older gentleman was looking at the same things I was in the grocery store, so I moved my cart and made sure to practice safe social distancing from him. He kept moving down the aisle toward me; I kept on moving away. I don’t know that he fully realized how close he was getting and I wasn’t sure he wasn’t trying to “socially distance bully me” away from the meat I was looking at. Was someone watching us? I stopped what I was doing and glanced around the store. Were they going to come up and get us into trouble?

This social distancing thing is hard to understand.

Another time, I was at the gas station filling up my car and went in to pay and get milk, only to realize that there was a line of people waiting to be checked out. I didn’t want to stand in line because it was a small space to begin with, but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I walked around and did a little shopping which is something I normally do not do at a gas station.

My mind wandered while browsing: How much is the bread here, do they have eggs, I would really like Corn Nuts but they are all carbs, the pizza smells good but I shouldn’t have that either. I was wasting time because I didn’t want to put myself in a situation of being “too close” to people. I didn’t want someone to tell me to “back off” or “social distance myself” or look at me like I didn’t understand how to use recommended forms of mitigation.

When I back my car out to go to work, I swear my neighbors are looking at me thinking – “there she goes again, where is she going? Shouldn’t she be at home?” I want to tape my letter from work that states I am in health care, so they all see that I have a legitimate need to travel during this Coronavirus pandemic. I am supposed to be doing this and I’m not breaking the rules!Social distancing being practiced at supermarket payment counter in Malaysia, with 1 meter gap between people in queue.

This whole thing has me re-thinking and questioning norms. I don’t know if the man at the grocery store was trying to “socially distance bully me” or the gas station customers thought I was too close. Do my neighbors really think these things when I get in my car and back out of the driveway?

I want to do the right thing and I want people to be safe. I want my family and myself to be safe.

In the same sense, I don’t want to be forced to put my gum on my nose like when I got caught in 5th grade. Mrs. Basche did catch me and told me to put my gum on my nose, but I refused to be socially shamed. So, I swallowed it, thinking the gum would now have a 7-year sentence in my stomach, and I took the after-school detention. I did take her advice though and “calm down my hair brushing” which as an adult I can see with 20/20 vision how annoying it was to her, as the teacher, and all of my classmates.

Right now, it’s like we are all back in school trying to figure out how to navigate a changing world where as we grow and learn, we adjust to the social norms around us.

After 9/11, we all learned that destruction and suffering could occur in a matter of minutes through the use of planes as bombs and ideology as inflictors of terror. We learned that security and privacy were not separate entities. It was as if we learned that there were new rules added to this game called the human existence.

The Coronavirus has led to rules changing, and us along with it, but this world classroom has a lot of students in it and we are learning — all of us, together — as uncomfortable as it might be.

About the Author: Susan Marco lives with her husband, Troy, and has two children, Kenzie (21) and Jack (18). Susan enjoys spending time with her family and enjoys reading and writing. Susan also has her own personal blog where she writes about her various experiences as well as tackles the topic of Alzheimer’s, which she knows first-hand in caring for her mother.

Pandemic PPE: Intubation boxes provide new barrier

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There are community heroes busy donating their time and effort toward creating personal protective equipment (PPE) to help fight the spread of COVID-19 among health care workers. They are making face masks, gowns, face shields and anything else that can help. Gary Domier of Perham may not have picked up a needle and thread, but he did put his handyman skills to work by building three intubation boxes to protect the staff at Tri-County Health Care.

Creating a barrier to block the virusDoctor demonstrating how an intubation box is another form of PPE in the fight against COVID-19

There has been widespread coverage of the importance of ventilators to help treat the most severe COVID-19 patients. To use the ventilator, health care workers need to intubate the patient, which requires putting a breathing tube down the throat.

During this procedure, the virus is often aerosolized which puts everyone around the area at risk of infection. It is one of the highest risk procedures for treating COVID-19 and that is where the protection of the intubation box comes into play. The box fits over the patient and has a pair of holes where the health care worker can put their arms through to safely perform the intubation process. A clear piece of plastic is draped over the patient so if the virus is airborne in the process, it is concealed within the box.

“The intubation box is a barrier between health care workers and the patient so we’re protected from this aerosolizing virus being exposed to us,” said Rachel Redig, M.D., and Emergency Department Director, and Trauma and Stroke Director at Tri-County Health Care. “This will be used for anyone who is having respiratory distress where they can’t breathe or breathe well enough and needs the assistance of a ventilator. It gives us a very important extra level of protection.”

Building that extra level of protection

Dr. Redig, like many Emergency Room providers around the country, has been diligently researching ways to limit the spread of the virus in the health care facility. She has tapped into a network of ER providers who share tips and tricks on social media. The idea to create these intubation boxes came from a hospital in Chicago, IL.

There has been a rush to acquire PPE and purchasing pre-made intubation boxes was not an option. Fortunately, Dr. Redig knew someone who would be up to the challenge of creating them.

Gary, who is Dr. Redig’s father, usually spends his time woodworking but knew he could build these boxes. The two of them found plans for the boxes online, modified as needed, and Gary started his new project.

The walls are constructed of plexiglass and the frame is comprised of PVC. He spent a day learning the best way to put the boxes together. After the first one was completed, it was brought to TCHC where experts examined it and made notes of any adjustments that would maximize the effectiveness of the box.

Gary finished up the next two in a day, sealed them with caulk and they were ready for use.

“It seems like most of the equipment is being sent to the east and west coasts so we have a shortage up here,” Gary said. “In the end it’s a good feeling to be able to do something like this.”

“We have had several talks about health care workers being exposed day in and day out and the worries about our health,” Dr. Redig said. “I can’t imagine what that is like as a parent, but I think he was thrilled to be able to contribute and provide that extra protection.”

Intubation boxes put to use

There has not been a need for intubation boxes at TCHC in the past, but Dr. Redig has already received positive feedback about using them as an additional protective measure.

photo demonstrating the procedure of intubationThe boxes have been used a couple of times, although not with any COVID-19 patients, and have yielded good results and success.

The boxes Gary built have also had health care personnel outside of TCHC inquire about how to construct their own. After the boxes were built, Dr. Redig posted pictures of them on Facebook, and health care facilities from around the area reached out for the plans.

“These boxes are not a new device, but they haven’t been routinely used anywhere. But with COVID-19 coming, it’s a desperate need for procedures where we are exposed to getting the virus,” Dr. Redig said. “We are using it on all patients we have needed to intubate. It has been used with good success and our health care staff are thrilled to have another measure of protection.”

For updates and additional information about COVID-19 from the experts at Tri-County Health Care, click here. Tri-County Health Care also offers free COVID-19 screening online through its eClinic.

How to support TCHC in the fight against COVID-19

TCHC really appreciates all of the community support pouring in to provide our frontline staff with more PPE. Donations may be dropped off on the table located outside the front entrance of the Wadena Clinic. As we plan for the possible times ahead, we are specifically in need of manufactured N95 masks.

Additional needs include:

Cloth face masks
Clear plastic face shields
Safety goggles
Safety glasses
Used scrubs
Sealed bottles of hand sanitizer

Coronavirus: Experts Tackle Social Distancing and Mental Health

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The entire country has spent the better part of the last month practicing social distancing due to the Coronavirus. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has extended the “Stay at Home” order through May 4. Early numbers indicate that these measures have helped to “Flatten the Curve.”

While it is encouraging to see data that reflects progress in the fight against the Coronavirus, it is still vitally important to continue with these mitigation measures. That means limiting exposure to anyone outside of the immediate household. It also means more time out of the comfort zone, which can have both a physical and mental effect. This week, our experts discussed the continued importance of social distancing in addition to providing tips to adjust to stressful and uncertain times.


Q: Am I allowed to visit friends and family?Professional doctors and nurses posing together in a hospital ward and wearing protective suits, coronavirus outbreak emergency concept

Ben Hess, M.D., stresses the importance of staying at home and practicing social distancing. This includes both in the health care setting and in the community.

Dr. Hess: First, Tri-County Health Care is restricting visitors to reduce the traffic throughout our buildings. Even though we do not have any COVID-19 positive patients at this time, we are still operating like it is present in our communities. Anyone coming into the building who doesn’t need to be there has the potential to walk away and spread the virus despite the protective measures we have in place. The virus can hide on all types of surfaces and you never know where you can pick it up.

As for visiting friends and family outside of a health care facility, I would strongly advise against it. Social distancing should be practiced with anyone who is not living in your current household. There are some exceptions, like having children in daycare, but just visiting family, friends or neighbors is a dangerous thing to do as it can spread the virus throughout the community. Even if you are not worried about your own health, you don’t know how many people you may inadvertently infect.


Q: How does Coronavirus compare to other contagious diseases from the past?

Tri-County Health Care has a provider on staff with firsthand experience battling a contagious disease. Alfredmy Chessor, M.D., treated patients in Africa during the Ebola epidemic in 2014-15. She explains another reason why it is vital to practice social distancing to combat the spread of the Coronavirus.

Dr. Chessor: With Ebola, it was very obvious when the patient was ill and deathly sick. This made it was easier to distance and protect yourself with the proper equipment. With Coronavirus, there are people who have the virus but show no symptoms. These are the ones spreading the virus without even knowing it. When we talk about social distancing and work toward flattening the curve, we are trying to minimize the risk of spreading the Coronavirus to people who are more susceptible. An individual may show no signs or symptoms, but even in a mild symptom state, they are highly contagious to those around them.


Q: What are some tips to manage mental health and make it through these stressful and uncertain times?

Aaron Larson, M.D., sees patients in Behavioral Health Services and knows it is a stressful time for many people. People are thrown out of rhythm and are isolated at home and not able to visit friends and family. It can be hard to cope and make necessary adjustments, but there are tips to maintain a positive mindset.

Dr. Larson: We are bombarded with information, suggestions, rules and different ways of doing things while also fearing for our health and the health of our families, friends and communities. Here are a few points to keep in mind when adjusting to this new abnormal.


Emotions can range from fear, anger, denial, acting out or further isolation beyond social distancing. Be on guard against the overwhelming nature of these emotions. It’s okay to be frustrated, angry and scared, but don’t get stuck there. Not paying attention to these emotions and reactions can lead to maladaptive behaviors such as substance abuse, or self-medication to stay awake or to calm down.


We see a constant stream of information from many sources – national, world or local. I suggest relying on local information. Read or listen Video call online during quarantine to keep social distanceto it once or twice a day, get what you need and let it go. The 24-hour news cycle is only going to increase anxiety and you can get caught up in a cycle that is constantly changing.

The local health care experts know what is going on. When the information is received, be acceptable to the change it may bring. It may seem negative at the time but don’t get hung up on it.


We are trying to adapt to a new normal and our brains are learning how to do this. It is important to stay connected to people. Call, video chat or connect with a friend through social media. It’s important to connect with elderly relatives and let them know you love them and care about them. They may be more isolated.

Make sure to take care of your physical health. Get outside and take care of yard work or finish that house project you have been waiting to complete. Remember to take your regular medications and have an adequate supply. Taking care of your physical health will leave you in the best condition to fight off the virus if you do get it. Remember to stay safe and don’t do anything that will require a trip to the emergency room. It may be overburdened due to the virus.

Q: What can I do if I want to see a provider for a minor illness but don’t want to risk being exposed to the Coronavirus by leaving the house?

A: Patients have the option to seek care online through the TCHC eClinic where providers can virtually diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication. (Our eClinic also offers FREE Coronavirus screening)

Coronavirus: Ask the Tri-County Health Care Experts

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States around the country have been taking drastic measures to help limit the spread of the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Governor Tim Walz has issued an executive “Stay at Home” order for Minnesotans to significantly mitigate person-to-person contact.

While many people in the state will be staying home to help “Flatten the Curve,” Tri-County Health Care staff remain busy preparing for the Coronavirus to reach our communities. We know there are many questions circling this pandemic and our experts at TCHC wanted to take the time to answer questions on a wide range of topics. This week, our experts cover who is considered in the high-risk category, how children are affected, ways to clean and disinfect your home and alternative options to seek medical care during this pandemic.

Coronavirus Q&A ask the experts imageQ: What groups of people are considered in the high-risk category?

The reason so many experts stress the importance of social distancing is because it is crucial in reducing the spread of the virus to high-risk individuals in our communities. Ben Hess, M.D., explains who we are working to protect while social distancing.

Dr. Hess: When we talk about high-risk patients, we’re talking about two specific groups – people who have an increased risk of catching the Coronavirus and another group who may struggle after becoming ill with it.

The first group includes people who have problems with their immune system. This can be people who have an autoimmune disease or are on medication that suppresses their immune system. These people not only have a higher risk of catching Coronavirus, but are also more likely to become seriously ill.

The other group includes people with chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Even if they have good control of their condition, we still want them to take precautions like they are in the high-risk group. While they may not catch the Coronavirus quite as easily, their chronic diseases can play a much larger role if they do become ill. For example, if a patient has a condition like diabetes under control, but then becomes critically ill, their body can no longer control the diabetes and their complications worsen.

Q: How does the Coronavirus affect children?

Dr. Hess: Studies show young children tend to tolerate and do much better with Coronavirus symptoms than adults. They are in the low-risk category and have a low chance of getting seriously ill or hospitalized from the Coronavirus. The risk isn’t zero, but it’s much lower than adults.

Q: What are ways to clean and disinfect inside the home?

Many people are wondering how to best clean and disinfect areas in their own households. This is important not only to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, but also good practice for everyday germs. The Environmental Services team does this on a daily basis at Tri-County Health Care and has tips for how to best keep the household clean and free of germs.

Betty Klingaman, TCHC Housekeeping Supervisor: Using a bucket and rag, make sure to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. These contact surfaces can include handles, desks, phones and keyboards. Make sure to clean all parts of the contact surfaces, including underneath tabletops and desks. If the surface is dirty, clean with soap and water prior to disinfecting.

Homemade disinfectant:

-Mix 5 tablespoons or 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons per quart of room temperature water.

DO NOT use hot or cold water – this minimizes the effectiveness of disinfectant.

-Mixed solution has a shelf life of 24 hours.

-Household bleach is effective against Coronavirus when properly diluted.


-Contact surfaces should stay wet to ensure complete disinfecting.

-Be careful with solution – bleach can damage surfaces and discolor material.

-Follow manufacturer instructions for application and proper ventilation.

-Make sure product is not expired.

-Never mix household bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners.


Q: What if I need to see my provider but don’t want to risk exposure to the Coronavirus?

Jill Wilkens, MPAS/PA-C: We know that it is still necessary for us to provide care not only for the sick, but for our routine healthy patients as well. You may still need to be seen in certain situations. We are working out a process to find a safe alternative location to take care of our healthy patients. If you feel unsafe coming into our facility, please call and we will do whatever we can over the phone. You can also utilize MyChart and we will take care of you.

Patients also have the option to seek care online through the TCHC eClinic where providers can virtually diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication. (Our eClinic also offers FREE Coronavirus screening)


Q: What news sources do you recommend to stay updated and informed on the Coronavirus? What should we do to be prepared?

Dr. Hess: Take care of yourself, eat healthy, stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, get good exercise, and keep an eye out for updated information here or visit Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health.

COVID-19: Health Care Workers Answer the Call

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By Susan Marco, Provider Recruitment

My grandmother Ethel was a nurse in Honolulu/Pearl Harbor during World War II. She was sent to nursing school by her Illinois farm family because they thought she would be an old maid based on her heavy-set frame and not being quite the beauty, her sisters were.

The family must have been shocked when little, Ethel Mae, returned from nursing school in Chicago with a tiny waist, full bosom, and her hair styled. It was then that she told her family that she and some of her single friends had taken positions in the exotic-not an official state-tropical oasis known as Hawaii. It was early 1941.

My grandmother was with her friends hiking the lush, dense Hawaiian island mountains on December 7, 1941, because it was a Sunday and they had to go back to work the next day, which happened to be her birthday.

Front Entrance with coronavirus screening tentsThat Sunday, a date that will live in infamy, was a simple Illinois farm girl’s day of fun celebrating an early 23rd birthday and then, everything changed. She was a nurse; and she was called into action.

I think now about my high school senior son, Jack.  He is at home. No prom, no senior slide, no senior anything. I don’t know that he has fully grasped what all of this means; to be frank, I don’t think I have either. Do we have a graduation party? Will I even be able to get the paper plates, plastic forks, napkins to even have a party? Will I be able to get the food? I went to Aldi one day when all of the COVID-19 talk began, and I reached for a tomato out of a flat of tomatoes (probably a flat of 20-25). Just as I was reaching for it, a woman picked up the whole flat and took it.

There were no eggs. There was one package of shredded cheese left. They had a limit on cans of beans.  I stood in the store as if I pushed the Health care workers in PPE set up in the coronavirus screening tentpause button on my television and looked around. What was I missing? Should I be doing this? Did I not get some memo or pay attention closely enough?

I go to work every day just as all health care employees do. I am not an RN like my grandmother; I am not on the essential front line of this virus. I work in an office in the old hospital building where I continue on — continue to work, continue to get up every morning and go to bed every night and continue to show up.

But here is the heart of it all — I show up and do what I can. I take the information that is given to me and I work with it. I go home at night and try to fall asleep and not let the fear and anxiety take over. I get up in the morning, get my cup of coffee and proceed forward. I must trust that the decision makers are making good decisions. I must trust that my co-working providers and nurses have a plan and have the stamina to continue.

We can’t control this — this, being life. We can’t control how the journey switches, changes or alters. We could be hiking one day and be in triage tents in Pearl Harbor the next. We could be an 18-year-old that thinks they have the world by the tail, only to be told there is no end of the senior year, no prom, no senior glory. Yet, the thing is, we are all on this journey together and we need to show up for it.  We can’t control it but we can be present for it. We can take ownership in our part. Perhaps even someday, tell our grandchildren about the event that colored our life’s journey.

About the Author: Susan Marco lives with her husband, Troy, and has two children, Kenzie (21) and Jack (18). Susan enjoys spending time with her family and enjoys reading and writing. Susan also has her own personal blog where she writes about her various experiences as well as tackles the topic of Alzheimer’s, which she knows first-hand in caring for her mother.

COVID-19: Do your part to slow the spread

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Help Slow the Spread of the COVID-19

The World Health Organization has officially declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. Public health officials have urged people who are sick to follow steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their home and community.

Restrict travel

People with suspected symptoms, which can include fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat, should restrict activities outside of the woman with her hand resisting and preventing coronavirus, a virus that causes severe peneumonia leading to death.home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school or public areas and avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing and taxis. REMEMBER: IF YOU ARE DISPLAYING SYMPTOMS PLEASE CALL AHEAD BEFORE VISITING ANY MEDICAL FACILITY.

If you must leave the house, avoid close contact with other people. Keep at a distance of about 6 feet, if possible.

Designate a specific room in the house

People with symptoms should practice isolation from family and animals in the household to limit the risk of spreading the disease. This means having a designated room away from family members and to use a separate bathroom, if available.

Wear a face mask 

If you must leave the house, a face mask can limit the spread of the disease to other people sharing a room or vehicle. Health care facilities will require a mask upon entry of the building. The mask is required to stay on during the entire visit, or you will be asked to leave. This is for the safety of the patients, medical care providers and community.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Always remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Alternatively, you may clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95 percent alcohol covering all surfaces of your hands until dry. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

Do not share personal household items

Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After use of these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.

Practice good hand hygieneMan washing hands in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Now is an especially good time to remind people to clean your hands often. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Disinfect high touch surfaces daily

Surfaces like counters, tabletops, doorknobs, toilets, phones, keyboards and tablets are all high traffic areas in use every day. It is important to clean each surface daily, especially any that may have blood, stool, or bodily fluids on them. Use a cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions.

Monitor your symptoms

Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms worsen. Call your health care provider before seeking care, and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. Wear a face mask at all times to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed.

Follow instructions provided by local health departments.

Discontinuing home isolation

It is difficult to say when it is safe to discontinue home isolation, and this decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. Consult with your health care provider and state and local health departments before ending home isolation.


Tri-County Health Care encourages people with symptoms to contact our eClinic for 24/7 online appointments with trusted providers. In addition to providing free COVID-19 Screening, the eClinic helps patients skip the trip and allows providers to recommend treatment and prescribe medication online.