As COVID-19 cases rise in Northland, hospitals feel emotional toll

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COVID-19 cases have continued to rise across the country, including here in the Northland.

“It’s just been an ongoing onslaught of very sick patients that come with their own difficulties in taking care of them,” explained Essentia Nurse Steve Strand.

Strand is the Assistant Head Nurse in the Medical ICU at Essentia. He has worked here for 39.5 years, seeing his fair share of flu outbreaks. Nothing compares to the stress felt during this pandemic.
“This continued influx of patients, and with the specific problem of covid, has caused an overwhelming response in regards to capacity,” Strand said. “It is making it so much harder to take care of the people that have normal critical problems, such as heart attacks and strokes and severe infections and various other things that would bring them to the hospital.”

Capacity is not the only problem hospitals are currently facing. With covid patients only able to see their friends and family virtually, added strain is placed on hospital staff.

“This is the hardest that it’s ever been for the staff and where I work in regards to the emotionality of it,” Strand said. “With the way that this can be contracted and brought forward, it just adds an extra layer of difficulty to it in regards to the loneliness that the patients feel, the extra work that the staff does to try to make that connection with that family.”

This isolation is not just limited to patients. While safety protocols are followed in the hospital, Strand and other staff still worry.

“It impacts me personally, having to come and worry and isolate myself from my family at times and worry that I’m going to get it and then I know that I’m not able to provide the services to other people that might have a need for the care and expertise that me and my team can give people,” Strand explained.

Strand takes extra safety precautions at home, especially when around his new granddaughter.

“A lot of the times, especially after a large work week where I’m working quite a few days in a row and then I’m going to see my new granddaughter, I feel kind of obligated to wear a mask,” said Strand. “I feel obligated that maybe I shouldn’t go there. I believe that I’m protecting myself as best as possible in the room with the isolation techniques that are necessary with going in there, but I feel that I still have a worry that I’m going to bring that and cause distress with the people that I love and care for.”

Just over two-thirds of Minnesotans have received their first dose of the covid vaccine, and experts are encouraging others to get vaccinated.

“I have some frustration in regards to, some of this could be preventable if people were better at social distancing and wearing masks and following recommendations for vaccines,” emphasized Strand.

With the upcoming holidays in mind, extra caution is advised.

“You can be aware of who you’re with and maybe what their vaccination status is in regard to that and to take some added protection with masking and other things when you’re unsure of that or you’re having those discussions,” explained Strand. “I don’t want to tell people how to live, but it may not be the best season to get together”

More information about the latest COVID cases, including the number of current cases by county, can be found here.