Flu Shots Are More Important This Year

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This year presents a new challenge for health care workers and public health officials – taking on two respiratory illnesses at once. With COVID-19 still circulating and the influenza season upon us, receiving flu shots are even more important this year.

Despite the unique challenge, Tri-County Health Care is prepared. Part of that is encouraging people of all ages to receive their flu vaccination this year.

“If there was ever a year to get your flu vaccine, this is the year to get it,” said Ben Hess, M.D. and Tri-County Health Care Chief Medical Officer. “It will be important to get it now, so it’s easier for your provider to sort through what kind of illness you may have.”

If a patient presents with symptoms consistent with a respiratory illness but has received a flu shot, a provider will be more suspicious that it is COVID-19.

Tri-County Health Care flu shot covid-19 influenza prevention wadena henning bertha ottertail sebeka verndale Flu Shots Important This Year

Helping Prepare the Community

There have already been positive cases for influenza in the area. That is why Tri-County Health Care has taken steps to encourage and assist community members in getting their flu shot this year.

Patients can receive their vaccine at primary and specialty care appointments. Tri-County Health Care has also scheduled flu shot clinics throughout its service area. These options offer patients a convenient way to receive their flu shot.

Upcoming dates and locations for flu shot clinics include:

  • Sebeka Clinic: Tuesday, Oct. 13, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (106 Minnesota Ave., Sebeka, MN 56477)
  • Henning Clinic: Wednesday, Oct. 14, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (401 Douglas Ave., Henning, MN 56551)
  • Bertha Clinic: Thursday, Oct. 15, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (214 1st St NW, Bertha, MN 56437)
  • Wadena Clinic:
    • Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. (4 Deerwood Ave. NW, Wadena, MN 56482)
    • Saturday, Oct. 31, 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. (4 Deerwood Ave. NW, Wadena, MN 56482)
  • Ottertail Clinic: Tuesday, Oct. 27, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (232 Minnesota Highway 78 North, Ottertail, MN 56571)

Masking, screening and social distancing will take place at each event.

The Importance of Flu Shots

Everyone 6 months and older should receive immunization every flu season. For people who are at high risk of serious complications and adults 65 years and older, the flu shot is more important than ever this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 39 million people were affected by flu-related illnesses from Oct. 1, 2019, through Apr. 4, 2020. More people receiving this vaccination leads to increased protection throughout the community. A flu vaccine this season will also help reduce the burden on our health care systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and save medical resources for the care of those patients.

In addition to receiving the annual flu shot, it’s important to continue taking steps to reduce the spread of both respiratory illnesses. Mitigation strategies include washing your hands often, social distancing and wearing a face mask.

“Anything we can do to lessen both of those illnesses is important for the community,” said Dr. Hess. “It’s something we should all be striving for.”

Tri-County Health Care flu shot covid-19 influenza prevention wadena henning bertha ottertail sebeka verndale Flu Shots Important This Year


Community Partnership is Key to Schools Reopening

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Six months have passed since area students sat down for classes inside their schools. The COVID-19 pandemic left communities and school districts scrambling to plan ways to provide education. Next week, students will be returning to the classroom with new plans in place. Community partnership is key to area schools reopening.

Area school districts like Wadena-Deer Creek have developed a partnership with Tri-County Health Care and Sourcewell to provide a safe and effective learning experience. Parents and the community will have significant roles to play in keeping kids in school moving forward.

COVID-19 Tri-County Health Care germs

What will school look like this year?

Staff at schools are excited to get students back in the building this year. The Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education have guided several changes to procedures for the upcoming school year. Tri-County Health Care also offered a team of professionals, including providers, to review the plan and provide recommendations on key components. The goal is to have students back in school as much as possible. However, it is likely that there will be a shift in learning formats depending on COVID-19 cases in the community.

Changes at Wadena-Deer Creek:

  • Cleaning protocols: There are new daily and weekly cleaning procedures within the schools. Additional custodial staff will be cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces throughout the day.
  • Student screening: Parents need to check temperatures and look for any COVID-19 symptoms before sending their children to school. Even if there is a slight fever, school districts recommend keeping children at home. Schools expect a higher than average absence rate and will work with parents.
  • Social distancing: Students will be socially distanced to the extent possible when they are in school. There will also be different procedures when coming to and from school. This year will have designated drop zones and entrances for staff and different age groups of students. Lunchtime will also look different – there will be no self-serve option and instead, food will be put together for students. 
  • Face masks requirement: The best way to keep everyone as safe as possible inside the classroom is to wear face masks. Students are allowed to take masks off when eating and drinking, in physical education class and outside while social distancing. Teachers are encouraged to take students outside to give them a chance to take masks off and get fresh air.
  • Hand hygiene: There will be regular handwashing with soap plus hand sanitizer in each classroom.
  • Air circulation: The advanced HVAC system will provide increased circulation of fresh air in the buildings.
  • Limiting bus capacity: Buses will run at 50 percent capacity. Wadena-Deer Creek appreciates families that stepped up and volunteered to bring their kids to and from school to help achieve this mitigation effort.

The importance of wearing a mask

Wearing face masks is the most crucial component in keeping students safe. It will be mandatory and a key to allowing students to continue in-person learning. Wadena-Deer Creek encourages families to teach children the importance of wearing a mask. Additionally, children should practice wearing them before the school year begins.

“It’s really important for our parents to be partners with the school on this. We need our parents to talk to their kids about wearing masks,” said Wadena-Deer Creek Superintendent Lee Westrum. “We’ll do our part at the school. Our teachers do a great job of educating our kids and this topic will be no different. We will be front and center in working with our kids to drive home the importance of masks.”

The highest risk situation for spreading the virus is large indoor gatherings. In-person learning falls under this category. There have been health concerns about wearing masks and Tri-County Health Care’s Chief Medical Officer, Ben Hess, M.D., assures parents they are safe for children.

“Masks can be stuffy, uncomfortable and take time to get used to,” Dr. Hess said. “But I want to stress to parents that masks are very safe. There are very few, if any, medical exceptions that will affect their ability to breathe well.”

Community mitigation efforts are crucial

The importance of community partnership in mitigation efforts like social distancing, wearing a mask and hand hygiene remains key for schools reopening. Everyone agrees in-person learning is the best way for students to receive their education.

This year, there will be state mandates where schools must transition away from in-person learning if the number of COVID-19 positive tests in the county increases. The model is based on positive tests per 10,000 people in a two-week period.

Wadena County has remained within the range for in-person learning but has seen an uptick of positive cases in the last two weeks. On August 17, the county had 30 positive cases. That number went up to 49 over the next two weeks.

COVID-19 Tri-County Health Care germs

For students to remain in school and not move to a hybrid in-person/online or fully online curriculum, it is critical for the community to keep positive cases low. A partnership from the community to practice mitigation efforts will be key to allowing the reopening of schools.

“We’re all concerned that if we don’t follow these rules when kids are back in school, we will see the virus quickly spread through the community,” Dr. Hess said. “We will be watching that closely and doing what we can to help the schools.”

Helpful links to learn more about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Tri-County Health Care

Wadena-Deer Creek Schools


Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesota Department of Education

Ensuring the Health and Safety of Our Patients

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Tri-County Health Care has always had a strong commitment to the health care needs of our communities. During this global COVID-19 pandemic, we know the health of our patients is essential, and their safety is our priority. We strive to provide our patients a safe, reliable place to receive care and have implemented measures to achieve that goal.patient safety measures include staff wearing PPE for all encounters

The last few months have seen many changes inside and outside of the doors at Tri-County Health Care. Our medical and infection prevention and quality control experts, with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control, have created guidelines to ensure our facilities remain safe for patients to confidently receive care.

In-Person Appointments and Procedures

For many of our patients, maintaining good health means taking care of issues and having regular visits with their provider. Each patient’s circumstances are evaluated to determine if in-person care is required, or if they can utilize Video Visits or our eClinic.

We want to stress the importance of not delaying emergency care and to call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Department for any of these or other urgent conditions: chest pain, compound fracture, difficulty breathing, heart attack, head injuries, major trauma, seizures, severe abdominal pain, severe burns, shock, stroke or uncontrollable breathing.

Visitor Restrictions

Our policy currently restricts visitors to reduce the number of people in our facilities. This helps to lower the risk of exposure between patients, visitors and staff. We understand this can be difficult for patients and family. However, it is a critical step to ensure the safety of all patients at Tri-County Health Care.


All patients, visitors and staff are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the building. When patients arrive for an appointment, they are asked about any cough, fever or other symptoms of respiratory virus infection that they or anyone in their household may be experiencing. They will then have their temperature taken in the screening tent.

Masks and Hand Sanitizer

Patients, visitors and staff are all required to wear face masks at Tri-County Health Care. Patients may choose to bring their own or will be provided one at the entrance.

Nurse doing hand hygiene to prevent Coronavirus infection as part of patient safety measures.Hand sanitizer is available at all entrances and everyone is asked to sanitize their hands when entering the building. Our health care staff also sanitize their hands before and after seeing each patient.

Cleaning and Disinfection

The Environmental Services team makes sure to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and areas after patient contact. This includes cleaning waiting rooms every hour and all restrooms every two hours.

Additionally, nurses have always wiped high touch surfaces in exam rooms after each patient. They are now using a Coronavirus-killing disinfectant to make sure everything in the room is decontaminated before the next appointment.

A robot that uses ultraviolet (UV) light is also used to kill the Coronavirus, germs, and many viruses and bacteria in the Emergency Department, ReadyCare, operating rooms and hospital patient rooms. Read about it here.

Social Distancing

New processes have been put in place to reduce the number of people in waiting rooms and at registration to create a safe distance between everyone. Registration staff now have plexiglass barriers and waiting room seating is reduced to comply with social distancing.

We at Tri-County Health Care want our patients to have the confidence that they always receive safe, high-quality and compassionate care even during this time of crisis.

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.

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov

Gross! Hand hygiene and other germy facts

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Your hands are gross. It’s a fact of life. You touch hundreds of surfaces a day, all of which contain their own little worlds of nasty germs. But you might not realize just how gross your hands really are.

Take a look:

  • Germs can survive for up to three hours on your hands.
  • There are between 2 to 10 million bacteria on your fingertips and elbows.close up of 3d microscopic blue bacteria
  • The number of germs on your fingertips doubles after you use the toilet.
  • When you don’t wash your hands, you transfer germs to the food and drinks you eat.
  • Your hands spread 1,000 times more germs when they are damp than when they are dry.


Why are germs so bad?

A germ is a tiny organism that can cause diseases and illnesses. Germs can get on your hands after you use the toilet, change a diaper, handle raw meats, or touch any object that has germs on it. When germs are not washed from your hands, they can be passed from person to person. By killing these germs, we lower the likelihood that someone will get sick.

This is important for a number of reasons. For one, nobody wants to be sick, and some of those illnesses could become quite serious. Secondly, those who get sick could be affected financially.

Another reason is that the more people who get sick, the more antibiotics are prescribed, often unnecessarily, according to Cheryl Houselog, infection preventionist at Tri-County Health Care. The more antibiotics you take, the more bacteria builds a resistance to those antibiotics, meaning they will not work as well to fight off that infection. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the U.S.

Other “fun” germ facts:

  • One germ can multiply into more than 8 million germs in one day.
  • Nearly 80 percent of illness-causing germs are spread by your hands.
  • Your remote control is a top carrier of bacteria.
  • There are more germs on your phone, keyboard and cutting board than on a toilet seat.
  • One in five people don’t wash their hands, and of those that do, only 30 percent use soap.
  • When you flush the toilet, germs can spray up to 6 feet.Hygiene. Cleaning Hands. Washing hands.
  • Purses and handbags have up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch, and 30 percent of them contain fecal (poop) bacteria.


Fighting those germs

Now that you’ve been effectively grossed out by the facts above, you’ll need to know how to kill some of those germs that live on your hands to keep you and others safe from illness.

Other than getting vaccinated, the number-one thing you can do is wash your hands, Cheryl said. Washing your hands is one of the best defenses you have against infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it this way: When you wash your hands, you can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections such as a cold or flu.

So what’s the best way to clean your hands? Simply use soap and water! The CDC has this down to a science:

  • Get your hands wet, turn off the water, and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to lather up the soap. Clean every surface from between your fingers and under your nails to your palms and back of your hands.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you need a way to time it, sing or hum “Happy Birthday” twice through.
  • Turn the water back on and rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel and use the towel to turn off the water.

However, if you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (as long as your hands are not visibly soiled or dirty).

In fact, primary care providers have begun using alcohol-based sanitizers. That’s the foam spray you see them use as they enter your exam room. The CDC cites many studies that show these hand sanitizers work incredibly well in clinical settings.

For more information about hand washing from the CDC, go here.


Cover your coughlittle boy, big sneeze.

Your hands aren’t the only way that germs are spread. Germs of respiratory illnesses, such as the cold or flu, can be spread through coughing or sneezing into the air or on your hands.

Did you know that when you sneeze, you shoot droplets with up to 100,000 bacteria and viruses into the air at 100 mph? And those droplets can stay in the air for up to 10 minutes!

That’s why it’s important to practice proper cough etiquette. Try to sneeze or cough into a tissue, a sleeve or your elbow if possible, and turn away from other people while doing so. Finally, wash your hands once you’re done.


Flu season in Minnesota begins ramping up near the end of December and beginning of January, so it’s a good time for everyone to start doing their part to prevent the spread of infection by washing their hands, practicing cough etiquette, and getting vaccinated.


Sources: CDC, Unicef, Med One Group