Guest Opinion: Winona Health’s preparedness for coronavirus


by Winona Health CEO Rachelle Schultz


We are all aware of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, that is now in the US and appears to be making its way into each state. Overall efforts have shifted from containment overseas to local preparedness to meet whatever may emerge in our respective communities. I can assure you that Winona Health, your local hospital, has significant preparedness efforts underway that connect to local, state and national resources.

In fact, across Minnesota, the hospital network is strong, connected and coordinated. Based on information from state and national authorities, 85 percent of individuals who test positive for the coronavirus can be treated at home. The other 15 percent are those who become very sick and need hospital-level care. An assessment of hospital bed capacity across the state has already been completed along with supply inventories for critical items and equipment. Rapidly assessing our resources is something Minnesota hospitals excel at and have a proven track record from past experiences.

Additionally, we regularly (even daily) update information on our website (, social media, internal communication channels, and with local media to answer questions and support our community as we continue to monitor this virus. We have received many calls regarding testing for the virus, so I want to address this question. Our providers will contact the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding testing for anyone who presents with certain symptoms or conditions. These organizations make the determination on whether or not to test. To date, they have determined no need to test the patients we have seen, but recommended having the patient self-quarantine at home and be monitored for any changes. These are sensible, precautionary measures and, to date, this has worked well.

We all want to know more and know it fast. Unfortunately, novel viruses won’t accommodate our wishes. This situation requires everyone’s diligence, patience, surveillance, and cooperation. From a health system standpoint, at Winona Health, we have excellent infection control policies, processes and systems that work for any infectious disease situation. And we have them activated. We also have strong emergency preparedness policies, processes, and systems linked to, and coordinated with, many local and regional organizations, including our county, city, and educational institutions, emergency response, and more. These have also been activated.

One of our most important roles as your local hospital is to be ready for anything — and our systems and processes are designed to ensure that we are. Our planning, drills, simulations, and other preparedness activities ensure that we stand ready to meet our community’s need, whatever the situation. We consider a multitude of scenarios and responses and, again, we prepare contingency plans should the need arise.

Of course, it is our hope that the coronavirus skips our community and we’ll have no positive tests, but we follow the old adage, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” We are preparing, we are connected, and we adapt quickly.

One final recommendation – get your flu shot! While we are focused on the coronavirus, at present, influenza IS in our community and protecting yourself entails all the same actions noted for the coronavirus PLUS the flu shot. And we have vaccinations for the flu.

As always, we encourage you to do the things you can to minimize the spread of germs.

For helpful information, links to resources and to stay up to date about the coronavirus, visit


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