COVID-19

Samples are tested for COVID-19 Tuesday, March 3, at the Minnesota Department of Health. The number of positive tests for COVID-19 among Minnesota residents is now at nine with new cases in Hennepin, Dakota and Stearns counties, state health officials said Thursday.

IRON RANGE — Assisted living facilities across the Iron Range are taking precautionary steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The health and wellness of our residents/tenants and the caregiving teams who support them is our number one priority,” said Jim Fena, Owner of Hillcrest, a Range Development Company, in a statement. “We are staying abreast of the latest information from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we are working with state and local public health and emergency preparedness officials to strengthen our preparation for a possible outbreak of Coronavirus.”

Based on CDC recommendations, Hillcrest is limiting visitors into buildings in Hibbing, Chisholm, Virginia and Nashwauk.

“We encourage loved ones to communicate with our residents in ways, other than in-person visits, such as video chat, telephone, or social media,” Fena said. “These precautions are vital to helping us avoid and minimize the possible spread of this virus. We also are committed to staying in contact with family members to update them on any news, emerging issues, or changes in our regular operations.”

Federal and state guidance on how to respond to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has been rapidly changing. Yet the CDC maintains that seniors and those with chronic health conditions and weakened immune systems are at higher risks of becoming sick with the coronavirus, as recently seen in at least 18 deaths of older adults who died from the virus at a Washington state nursing home.

The Minnesota Health Department says there are more than 80,000 people living in assisted-living facilities and nursing homes statewide. Such facilities are following federal guidelines and enacting measures to limit visiting hours and developing contingency plans in case residents must be quarantined.

Data from Minnesota Compass, a social indicators project led by Wilder Research, shows that 17 percent of the roughly 5.6 million Minnesotans are over the age of 65. The number of seniors living in the northern parts of the state increases as a large portion of the population here are part of the baby-boom generation, people born between 1946 and 1964. Data shows that 23.7 of the 327,939 living in the Northland are over the age of 65.

With a relatively large percent of senior residents on the Iron Range, Hillcrest officials say they are educating staff, residents and families on symptom awareness for coronavirus and infection control best practices protocols for staff to stay home from work if they are ill or symptomatic. Plans are already in place for a wide range of emergencies and are being updated as new information becomes available, they say, and staff are working closely with other health care providers in the community to help ensure the health and safety.

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