I received a call from a man last week and could hear the frustration in his voice as he shared his story. COVID-19 had infiltrated the senior care facility where his father had been living and had taken his dad’s life.

The man told me he had repeatedly asked the facility if there was COVID-19 present and had been assured it had not been. He had set up his home conducive to his father’s care and was prepared to take his dad out of the facility immediately. But with no notification that there was COVID-19 in the facility, he learned the virus was present through a story in a local newspaper and soon received notification from the facility that his father had a negative test, but nurses believed he had the virus.

Shortly after, the man was told to come for a “compassion visit” and say his goodbyes.

To date, the total deaths in Minnesota number 3,265, and 2,223 of those occurred in long term care or assisted living facilities.

The percentage of total deaths in Minnesota occurring in these facilities equals 68%. And in Mille Lacs County, it’s even higher at 77% of the total deaths.

Nationwide, the death rate from this demographic from COVID-19 is at 26% of the total deaths.

Something wrong is happening in Minnesota, and the Governor’s “scalpelled approach” to this virus, I believe, is missing its mark.

If we claim we value the elderly, why aren’t we using our resources to treat long term care and assisted living facilities equal to professional sports teams? Wouldn’t this make sense when we see that the vast majority of victims reside in these facilities and are the most vulnerable?

To ensure the professional sports must go on, there are stringent protocols the athletes must abide by.

The NFL recently reported that all players and coaches must have a negative test from the previous day’s testing before entering a facility in addition to regular daily nasal testing, among other stringent protocols.

But no, this isn’t happening. Instead Gov. Walz last week on Wednesday focused his attention on the places where the fewest deaths are coming from. The Governor announced a slew of new orders aimed to decrease the spread of COVID-19 as to not overwhelm the healthcare system including the total shutdown or bars and restaurants, minus take-out service, shutdown of gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and even limited our own personal Thanksgiving celebrations and gatherings.

Noted at a Nov. 10 Mille Lacs County Board meeting, Commissioner Jan Malcolm had just recently reached out to long term and assisted living facility staff “encouraging” them to test staff regularly. Just recently.

The Minnesota Department of Health in a pdf on their website on how to handle the COVID-19 virus that is running rampant through long term care and assisted living facilities (https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/hcp/ltcvisit.pdf) only “recommends facilities strongly consider conducting ongoing testing to identify cases while COVID-19 is circulating in the community.”

They state “ongoing testing could include: testing of all staff once weekly or every other week; testing staff who work at more than one long-term care facility; testing of staff who have had close contact with a household member or social contact with confirmed COVID-19; testing residents who leave the facility regularly, such as for dialysis or other essential medical services, or residents who have been admitted from a hospital or other facility (whether or not the referring facility has known COVID-19 cases).”

No armed guard, like the ones we’ve seen at Walmart or Menards, is standing at these facilities making sure this protocol is taking place.

We have trust in our government to be among the brightest and most astute among us, but in this case, the scalpel has been misplaced, which leads many of us to distrust how the rest of the pandemic is being handled by our highest elected and appointed state officials.

Traci LeBrun is the editor of the Messenger.

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