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Lyon Co. case confirmed

Schwan’s employee tests positive; company unable to say if it’s same case reported by Dept. of Health

Photo by Mike Lamb A cleaning/restoration company’s truck was parked outside the Schwan’s office building on West College Drive on Tuesday. A Schwan’s spokesperson said an employee who worked in the building has tested positive for COVID-19 and affected areas of the building are being disinfected as a precaution.

MARSHALL — The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that a person from Lyon County has tested positive for COVID-19, Southwest Health and Human Services said Tuesday.

While it’s the first case confirmed in Lyon County, it’s likely that the coronavirus is already circulating in our communities, SWHHS leaders said in a Facebook post Tuesday morning.

The person who tested positive for COVID-19 is currently out of the state, and is following all recommendations set by the MDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SWHHS said. However, in the COVID-19 updates posted daily on the Minnesota Department of Health’s website, the person is counted as a case in Lyon County.

Dan DeSmet, Lyon County emergency manager, said local emergency managers are continuing to work together with the state, SWHHS and area health care providers on contingency planning, in case a surge of COVID-19 cases are seen in the county.

DeSmet said he was encouraging local residents to remain calm.

“We are going to continue to provide for public safety,” he said.

A Schwan’s spokesperson said Tuesday that the company learned an employee at its building on West College Drive had tested positive for COVID-19. However, it’s not known whether that person is the same as the one confirmed by the MDH. Both SWHHS and the MDH said Tuesday that they cannot comment on or identify individual patients with COVID-19.

Chuck Blomberg, communication manager for Schwan’s Shared Services, said the company learned Sunday that an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Blomberg said the employee has not worked from the building since March 18, and is now under quarantine. They will be allowed to return to work once they are well, he said.

Doug Schultz, information officer for the Minnesota Department of Health, said if a positive case of COVID-19 had been reported on Sunday, it would have been added to the MDH’s map on Monday. However, there were no confirmed cases reported in Lyon County on Monday. As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, there was only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Lyon County, Schultz said.

Blomberg said Schwan’s has directly contacted employees who may have been in close contact with the individual who tested positive, and affected areas of the building are being disinfected as a precaution.

“At Schwan’s the safety of our people is always our top priority,” Blomberg said Tuesday. “We had already taken precautions in limiting the spread of COVID-19 by promoting best practices for hygiene and enhancing and increasing the frequency of our cleaning and disinfection procedures. Additionally, the building has been closed to the vast majority of our employees since the end of the day on Thursday, March 19, as we have asked most people in the office to work from home.”

The total number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota was up to 629 on Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported. That total includes one case in Lincoln county, and two cases in Cottonwood County, according to the MDH. However, of the 629 total cases, 288 patients no longer need to be isolated.

Out of the total number of COVID-19 cases statewide, 56 were hospitalized as of Tuesday, the MDH reported. Of the people hospitalized, 26 were in intensive care units. There have been a total of 12 deaths reported from COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Area health care providers and emergency managers are continuing to prepare for COVID-19 in the Marshall area. DeSmet said that included finding possible alternate sites for health care if hospitals are crowded, or possibly calling for additional volunteer responders if they are needed.

“This is very fluid,” DeSmet said of the situation. There are currently different models projecting how COVID-19 could affect Minnesota, and response plans will need to be flexible.

An Avera Marshall spokesperson said last week the hospital was looking at ways it could temporarily add beds, by converting areas of the building that were used as patient rooms in the past. In the event that the area sees a sudden increase in COVID-19 patients, Avera Marshall will work with other health care facilities to transport patients to other locations where they can get the level of care they need, said communications and PR coordinator Stacy Neubeck. Avera Marshall has supplies like personal protective equipment, with more on order, Neubeck said Tuesday.

However, Neubeck said it is crucial that members of the public follow the stay-at-home order and practice social distancing and good hygiene to help keep numbers of infections low.

“We are here and ready to help take care of our community and region, but this is a community-wide effort in which everyone has to play a part,” Neubeck said. “It’s also vital that patients who believe they may have COVID-19 symptoms don’t show up without calling ahead.”

Calling ahead is a way to keep health care workers safe, she said. If a health care worker is exposed to COVID-19 without proper protective equipment, they are taken out of the workforce for 14 days.

“The worst-case scenario would be health care workers getting the virus while treating patients,” Neubeck said.

Neubeck said there are over 20,000 employees in the Avera Health system, and many would be able to deploy to different areas if it becomes necessary.

Public health officials say it’s important to follow guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes staying home if you are sick, washing your hands often and thoroughly, and following Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order. People should call ahead before going to a hospital or clinic, SWHHS said.

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