Minnesota health officials emphasize preparedness amid flu season, coronavirus

Coronavirus cases and the flu both have people keeping an extra close eye on their health.

While there are no reports of coronavirus in Minnesota, hospitals across the metro already have plans in place for any type of outbreak. 

There’s no time to rest for those in charge of caring for flu patients, and metro hospitals say it’s been an active season.

So far, the Minnesota Department of Health has tracked 1,656 hospitalizations, more than this time last year, but less than some of the worst seasons, like in 2017 and 2018.

Hospital systems in the metro, like Hennepin Healthcare, Allina and Health Partners, say the flu hasn’t put them at capacity, but they prepare for what could happen - including the possibility of seeing the novel coronavirus in Minnesota.

“Our focus is on preparing hospitals on a surge of various sorts, including infectious disease, and to develop health care coalitions,” said Judy Seaberg, MDH Healthcare Preparedness Program Manager.

The Minnesota Department of Health’s Healthcare Preparedness division said hospitals practice surge drills often to make sure they’re ready for anything that could put them at or over capacity.

“During times of surge, they will share resources if needed; they can monitor bed availability and see where trouble spots might be,” Seaberg said.

The MDH also oversees MNTrac, an electronic system that hospitals in the state can use to do bed tracking and let others in the system know if there is room for more patients.

“Emergency medical services can know if a hospital is momentarily at capacity. They might have had something happen that they can’t accept patients then so they’ll divert them to another hospital.” Seaberg said. “You have to be ready to surge above your normal capacity and they’re asked to be able to do that on any day.”

When asked about concerns over the availability of medical supplies, the department said they feel hospitals are prepared, and they haven’t heard of any issues at this point.