RED WING — Mayo Clinic Health System is conserving medical supplies and testing equipment, but has what it needs to care for patients with COVID-19 and other ailments around the region, a clinic administrator said Friday, April 3.

The network of community hospitals and clinics, with locations in Red Wing, Ellsworth, Cannon Falls and Lake City, is keeping a close eye on its stockpile of personal protective equipment, or PPE, said Dr. Deepi Goyal, an emergency medicine physician and Mayo Clinic Health System chairman of clinical practice for southeastern Minnesota.

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PPE such as face shields, gloves and masks have been in short supply at health care organizations around the country, especially in areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

The local supply has been supported by offers from residents and businesses, Goyal said, including Pepin Manufacturing of Lake City opening its facility to Mayo Clinic staff for producing face shields.

"I think, though, we are being very careful, looking at what we use just to make sure we're conserving it to our utmost capability," he said. "Because we know that as this progresses and we start seeing the surge that supplies will get tighter."

Mayo Clinic Health System also works closely with Mayo Clinic Health System in Rochester to coordinate supplies across the Midwest, he added.

Testing

Mayo Clinic announced March 12 it developed its own test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Mayo Clinic Health System followed up with drive-through testing at clinics in southeastern Minnesota, including in Red Wing. The test takes 12-24 hours for results.

Mayo Clinic conducted nearly 2,600 COVID-19 tests in southeastern Minnesota as of Friday morning, Goyal said, and Mayo Clinic laboratories have the capacity to complete more than a thousand tests per day.

The health system is being selective with COVID-19 testing to help prevent labs from being overloaded and clinics from running out of testing equipment such as swabs.

"We want to make sure we're testing the right patients," Goyal said, such as people showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who are in high-risk categories. The list of symptoms that could make a patient eligible for testing was recently expanded to include sore throat and diarrhea, he said.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can develop up to two weeks after exposure, and can include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Mayo Clinic also announced this week it would be rolling out as soon as Monday, April 6, a serology test capable of determining whether a person has been exposed to the new coronavirus. Goyal said the organization is working through how best to use the new test.

COVID-19 testing statewide hit 24,227 completed tests as of Friday morning, according to the state health department. Approximately 8,682 were carried out by the state health department's lab, while almost double — 15,545 tests — were done by external labs. There were 789 positive cases since Jan. 20.

There were 1,912 positive tests for COVID-19 and 22,377 that came back negative in Wisconsin as of Friday, according to the Department of Health Services.

Not all suspected cases of the virus are confirmed through testing, so the Minnesota Department of Health cautions that testing numbers do not indicate the total number of COVID-19 infections.

Clinics still open, but call ahead first

Mayo Clinic Health System locations are still staffed and providing care to patients for non-coronavirus ailments, Goyal said, but the health system asks all patients to call ahead first before seeking care at a clinic.

"We are fully open and continue to do our things, but we're trying to minimize risks to our communities," he said.

Some patients will speak to a health care provider by phone or over a video call instead of being seen in person. Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing also designated space and a separate entrance for patients with respiratory symptoms to help reduce the risk of exposure to other patients.

More details about Mayo Clinic Health System's COVID-19 policies can be found at www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/covid19.