VIDEO: Mayo Clinic preparing for COVID-19 surge

Updated: April 08, 2020 07:52 PM
Created: April 08, 2020 04:17 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS)--Mayo Clinic's Medical Director of Emergency Management talks about what they have been doing to prepare for the surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Betsy Singer: "Dr. Pritish Tosh is the Medical Director of Emergency Management at Mayo Clinic. He's also with infectious diseases and a researcher on the teams that are doing so much important work right now. Dr. Tosh, where is Mayo Clinic with preparedness, as we get ready to reach our peak in this part of the country?" 


Dr. Tosh: "Our preparedness for pandemics has been going on for years and we've been working a long time trying to make sure we know that staff, space and supplies are needed to take care of a large number and a surge of patients, of any certain infectious disease. Of course in the last few months, our focus has been COVID-19 because that's the pandemic that's really taking over the world. We've been somewhat fortunate that we've been late into the pandemic, that certainly started in China. And then moved geographically eventually into Europe, then into parts of the United States, such as Washington state as well as New York. As the epidemic seems to have reached this peak in New York, truly hope so, we've also been anticipating that this lag will also then mean a lag in the peak for us, in Minnesota. Although we really don't know when we've hit the peak, until after we've passed it, our preparedness is really about maximizing the staff, space and supplies needed to meet the surge of patients that will come with the pandemic. We try not to focus on any one target, rather mechanistically thinking about how do we maximize our staff, space and supplies to meet whatever number of patients comes our way so we can continue to deliver outstanding care."

Betsy Singer: "Talk to Me about the PPE personal protective equipment for our healthcare workers. Where are we at with the supply? Are we in need like other parts of the state and other parts of the country and the ventilators that patient will need?"

Dr. Tosh: "Right, let's start with a personal protective equipment in these equipment and the ventilators or just part of the stuff the supplies needed to take care of patients. And I mention that because it's not just that material that limits your ability to take care of the surge it's also the personnel and the space requirements needed to do that. You asked about supply issues and that's part of the contingency and we want to make sure that we are using our personal protective equipment judiciously and limiting its use when it's not needed and doing things to conserve PPE, so that you were using the fewest amount. And that is needed to take safe care of patients again, not just to protect our employees, but also protect other patients and so as we're looking at this and seeing that PPE supply going all over the country all over the world, we're probably not gonna get as much as we want. We were looking aggressively and many other options including, how do you manufacture this locally or can you re-process the masks you already have, to reuse it safely, ahead of time and making sure that we are employing as much contingency in and planning ahead of time so that we can meet the supply needs as a surge approaches." 

Betsy Singer: "How far behind are we from the East Coast? As we know, they were expected to hit their peak this week and I don't think that's the situation here, you said coming weeks." 

Dr. Tosh:  Yeah, I mean it's difficult to know when the peak will be in Minnesota, until after you've hit it; once you start to see a real decrease in the number of cases. I think we've been fortunate, in that we've been a little bit behind temporally, in the country, where its hit other parts of the country first, which has also given us some time to do some real good social-distancing. This will mark week two of the governor's order. So our real efforts for social distancing were before the peak and so this has been really helpful too, as people are saying, flatten the curve. So the impact this has, we really don't know, but it certainly looks as though social-distancing is more effective then many people may have given it credit for, ahead of time, not just in terms of the number of COVID patience, but other respiratory viruses, certainly saw a plummeting decrease in the number of influenza cases, in the last couple of weeks. And so, i think we've been fortunate in terms of our timing, but also intentional as how we addressed it as a community and as a state." 

Betsy Singer: "Dr. Tosh, let’s talk about the mathematics of this as we listen to our healthcare experts, those within the healthcare industry and government were using a lot of numbers in cases. These are people and I try to be more sensitive when we’re talking about the numbers. These are people who are infected, who are dying. But when it comes to how the experts and how government leaders are really evaluating everything and talking about this peak, there is a mathematic kind of formula."

Dr Tosh: "Yeah, and it’s difficult when people are talking about a decrease in cases in New York and decreasing the number of deaths, that doesn’t help somebody if their loved one is the one that is dying. So, it is important that this is not just a numbers game; these are people's lives and we're cognizant of that. Making sure that as we are approaching potential surge here in Minnesota, that we are delivering excellent care to each individual patient and not looking at this purely as a model, of a wave of a pandemic." 

Betsy Singer: "And I do know that, sadly, medical personnel have to discuss, ahead of time, when there is a surge and things start getting scarce. As far as supplies go, and demand of healthcare workers, there has to have been talk about who gets treated first and that has come up recently."

Dr. Tosh: "So, the more time you spend in the contingency planning. the less time you have to spend in crisis. And if you don’t spend enough time in contingency plan, you’ll find yourself in crisis quickly. And so we’re spending a lot of our efforts trying to figure out how do we maximize the staff, space and supply, so that we can deliver excellent care to as many people as we possibly can. That being said, we’re all prepared, that for crisis care, we have to make some really tough decisions, but again it’s this effort in contingency planning that should keep us out of the crisis care. We have to make those kinds of decisions."  

Betsy Singer: "When we were finding out that this was first coming to this country, we had been hearing so much 'do not use for the public surgical masks' because they’re not going to help you at all. Now, there are people speculating that we were being told that because we wanted to keep our supply at a certain level. Now we’re being told to use those masks. So, help with the confusion with that, please." 

Dr. Tosh: "Sure, it is important that people don’t use surgical procedural masks, we need to keep those for healthcare workers and for taking care of patients. The recommendation from public health is to use a cloth mask and that is not to protect necessarily the wearer. What we’re finding out is, that there’s a lot of asymptomatic spread, at least more than we had initially thought, that somebody who is infected, but doesn’t know it because they don’t have really strong symptoms, they’re going about their day talking and things like that, and the respiratory droplets coming out of their can potentially infect somebody else. And so the wearing of a cloth mask is actually to prevent somebody from spreading their infectious droplets to somebody else and so there’s the difference between wearing a surgical mask, which people should not do outside of a healthcare setting. And wearing a cloth mask, which is now given the community spread throughout the country, is being recommended." 

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