Surge planning, or the plan for a large increase in cases of COVID-19 was the focus of a recent Pine County Board of Commissioners meeting. The Board of Commissioners was presented with an update on county services and staffing, which have been limited and reduced due to Executive Order 20-14 to shelter in place given by Governor Walz. Technology has been assisting in the coordination between essential employees that are still working in facilities. All departments are doing their best to practice social distancing and working from home if possible. Board meetings are also being held via technology, more information is available on the main county page.

Community Health Administrator Samantha Lo and Emergency Management Coordinator Denise Baran updated the board on the current public health management and emergency management situation. The county has been working with other counties in our region to increase the number of available hospital beds. Based on recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health the region is working on a plan to have 250 emergency hospital beds available. The goal of this “surge planning” is to restructure spaces to increase capacity. Lo let the board know that there are no ICU beds in Pine County and only one ventilator is available.

Lo also informed the board that the county is part of two coalitions that are working on coordinating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The board looked for clarification on the need for PPE and the lack of availability. Pine County has access to stockpiles through both of their participation in two coalitions. Lo explained that the reason that PPE was in such short supply was the dramatic rise in demand and not the lack of funding to purchase.

A county-specific COVID-19 hotline was created to connect Pine County residents with local services. That number is 320-591-1690 and available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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