Kandiyohi, Renville Public Health could help state trace COVID-19 contacts

The Minnesota Department of Health is reaching its capacity to trace those who have had contact with those newly infected by COVID-19, according to a local public health director. The Kandiyohi-Renville Community Health Board has expressed interest in assisting the state in tracing those who may have been exposed to the virus.

Coronavirus test
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OLIVIA — Renville County and Kandiyohi County public health workers could play a role in helping track the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the region.

Jill Bruns, Renville County public health director, told the Renville County Board of Commissioners that the Kandiyohi-Renville Community Health Board has expressed interest in providing staff from the public health offices in the two counties to assist the Minnesota Department of Health in tracing those who have had contact with people who test positive for COVID-19. The Minnesota Department of Health is reaching its capacity for tracing cases, and has put out a request to public health agencies willing to assist. Bruns said the state would reimburse the public health agencies for the staff time.

The department is looking for a commitment to provide help for a four-week period. If local staff participate, they would focus first on tracing the contacts of newly confirmed cases in the region, she explained.

The tracing of contacts along with more widespread testing are part of the strategy for managing the pandemic as the state loosens restrictions and more activities are allowed.

Bruns and Renville County Emergency Management Director Mike Hennen addressed the commissioners to update them on efforts by the county’s Emergency Operations Center to manage the pandemic.


Commissioner Greg Snow urged the commissioners to do more to reopen county offices and bring employees back to their workplaces. He said those who are not afraid to return to their work settings should be allowed to do so.

“Those who want to come to work can come to work,” said Snow. “At some point we have to get back open.”

Board Chair Bob Fox said the county has opened its license and recorder’s office by appointment. He also noted that the county’s work is being accomplished by those working remotely.

Bruns said the county’s approach toward reopening is a balancing act. It is seeking to reopen in phases and keep as many preventative measures as possible in place so as not to overwhelm the system.

Hennen said he remains concerned about the risk of being overwhelmed as well. Should the county loosen restrictions on large gatherings, one event could lead to a large number of ill people needing help beyond the capacity of the local health system.

The resources to take care of the “sickest of the sick” are limited, he said. “Slow is the way to go right now.”

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