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Riverwood activates coronavirus preparedness plan

In late February, Riverwood Healthcare Center began preparedness activities to plan for the potential arrival of patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Dr. David Taylor, chief medical officer for Riverwood, along with Jeanine LeBlanc, director of nursing, is leading an emergency preparedness team that is meeting weekly, or more frequently as needed, to take steps to prepare the Riverwood staff, hospital and clinics in the event of COVID-19 illness reaching our area. They are in communication with Aitkin County Public Health, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Hospital Association to share the latest information.

“Within Riverwood we have set up an incident command structure and are meeting weekly, or more often as needed, to best prepare for taking care of our patients,” Taylor said. “We are working with the Minnesota Hospital Association as well as following Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols and guidelines.”

Hospital visitor restrictions
To ensure the health and safety of patients and its staff, Riverwood implemented a restricted hospital visitor policy with compassionate exceptions on March 12. Children under age 18 should NOT visit. Exceptions include the significant other of any patient, including those undergoing surgery, and family members of critically ill or dying patients. Visitors should stop at the front reception desk with any questions. Visitors will not be allowed in the emergency department or the infusion center until further notice.

The courtesy parking lot shuttle service for patients on Riverwood’s Aitkin campus has been discontinued temporarily.  This service will be restarted when the threat of widespread coronavirus illness is past.

Travel and symptoms screening
Signs are now posted at Riverwood entrances to the hospital and clinics to advise individuals to alert the staff about travel outside Minnesota and having COVID-19 or flu symptoms like fever, cough or shortness of breath. Disposable masks to cover the nose and mouth are available for those with symptoms near the check-in area at Riverwood clinics in Aitkin, Garrison and McGregor. Wearing a face mask is not recommended for those who are healthy with no symptoms.

If you have traveled outside Minnesota with the last 30 days and become sick with a fever, cough or shortness of breath, call your health care provider. Before going to your clinic, call and ask what precautions you may need to take, such as wearing a mask, to avoid infecting others. The number to call for Riverwood patients is 218-927-2157 or toll-free 888-270-1882.

Dr. Taylor added, “There are many unknowns at this point, but rest assured we are doing our very best to stay on top of this and stay connected with the state’s overall response to this rapidly evolving health crisis.”

To help prevent the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 or influenza, follow these steps:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick except to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice). Scrub the back of the hand and between fingers.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home.

Riverwood has cancelled all community health seminars and events at this time. More updates to come as new information becomes available to share with the public. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/COVID19.