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Opening Thoughts, COVID-19

from Chris Gade | March 15, 2020

On Friday, I shared an update on COVID-19 preparations with our department of Public Affairs team at Mayo Clinic – I started with this sentence. We are in unprecedented times. Today, in this place, I would offer – Zumbro Lutheran, we are in unprecedented times. So many of our own, here at Zumbro, are exhibiting extraordinary leadership during these times – Melanie Tschida is a big part of ensuring community readiness, Dr. Steve Adamson is leading for Olmsted Medical Center, Dr. Amy Williams, leading Mayo Clinic’s response. So many others are doing what they always do, exhibit leadership to ensure all facets of community are prepared – our workforce, schools, our first responders, securing our basic infrastructure. Our team’s responsibilities at work afford us an interesting (sometimes too interesting), broad view of almost every situation. We see events through the lens of our community,region, the nation and the world. Here’s some of what I took away from last week and some food for thought for each of us as we travel this COVID-19 journey. The most often asked question – is this real? Yes, this is real. While COVID-19 is often compared to influenza, two things are far different – there is no vaccine for COVID-19 and the world’s best experts, many of them right here in our state and community, are still trying to understand it. And while many early reports pointed to heightened risk for older adults, all age groups are susceptible. The second most frequently asked question – are we overreacting? No. We are not overreacting. This advice came to us on Thursday from the interim chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle – ground zero of one of the most serious “hot spots” of COVID-19 in the U.S. 2 He offered – what is happening in Seattle and western Washington will happen to you, too, if it has not already. Prepare now. Activate your incident command structures NOW, begin having daily calls with your team and prepare for things to get crazy. The reports we’re hearing out of Italy – the impact on hospitals is significant. Through Mayo Clinic’s relationship w/ Sheik Shahkbout Medical City, we have a strong line of sight into preparations for COVID-19 in Abu Dhabi. They proactively closed schools three weeks ago to reduce the spread of the virus. In our community, we are prepared for a spike in confirmed cases later this week into next. That spike will be driven, in part by increased availability of testing, but also by the spread of the virus. All that being said – I’d offer this. Don’t panic. In our media-crazed, constantly plugged in modern society, it’s easy to let your emotions and your mind take you to a place of great anxiety. Remain calm. Prepare. Take the necessary steps to ensure that you and those you love have the right plan in place. Act with appropriate urgency, now to ensure that you and those around you have what you need, but do it with moderation. Consider – do I have a supply of the medications I need for me and my family? Are there food staples I can purchase that will sustain me for the long haul? Listen to the news, don’t obsess over it. Go to trusted sources that deliver the facts in bite-sized pieces. The World Health Organization web site is a great source. And while I’m biased towards our team’s work – I would also point you toward the Mayo Clinic News Network. And most importantly, relative to the news – unplug from it. I reached out to Matt Hafar and asked his advice early this morning, Sunday evening for him in Hong Kong. 3 As you know – Matt, a member of our church, is serving for two years in Hong Kong, teaching English to students at a seminary there, very near the worldwide epicenter of this pandemic. He offered that the United States today is where Hong Kong was in February – a lot of panic. Matt offered that in Hong Kong, since early February, many people in all sorts of companies have been working from home. It’s gotten safer, because so few people go anywhere. When people go to certain places, like a coffee house, people’s temperatures are taken. Hand sanitizer is everywhere and people are expected to use it. People are not allowed to sit close together. Most churches are still closed. And looking back, many of the infections have come during family or religious gatherings with food. What I took away from my Matt’s insights – manage your expectations and prepare to live life in new ways. He offers that people are adjusting. No more panic. But the isolation is very difficult. No concerts. Very few movies. No sporting events. A fellow Luther College regent, Michael Osterholm is the director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota offers this perspective – you may have seen him interviewed last evening on KTTC – we’re currently preparing for this as we would for the COVID-19 blizzard. His view – we should prepare for it as the COVID-19 winter. With the perspectives of Mike Osterholm and Matt Hafar in mind – we should manage our expectations for what likely will be the degree and length of disruption in our lives. In the swirl of last week’s events – I heard – we should expect and prepare for significant disruption of our day-to-day lives of at least two months. Given that – how will each of us be of service, stay engaged with others during these unprecedented times? How will our families and our community, a community rooted in serving the medical needs of people from across our community, nation and around the world remain strong? Matt Hafar offered this advice – share what you have; check on people who are alone; call; respect people who are more afraid than you. I would offer: • Find ways to support your friends, neighbors and colleagues who are involved in this effort full-time. o Ask what you can do to help. o If you are asked you help, step up. 4 • Stay informed and be personally responsible to minimize the impact of the virus. • Take care of yourself and those you love. • Plan now for change, including telework and schools closing. • Either cancel large group meetings or conduct them virtually. • Avoid being in large groups. Mayo Clinic experts advise us all to avoid crowds larger than 20 or more people. • Re-consider travel plans. • Take care of yourself. I will end where I concluded my Friday update to our department of Public Affairs team. Be safe. Be there for each other. We’re all in this together.