Renville County taking steps to reopen

Olivia Hospital & Clinics has resumed elective surgeries, doctor visits, and some county offices could reopen. The county's emergency team warns that numbers of ill will continue to rise.

Mayors and administrators in seven communities have sent a letter to the Renville County board of commissioners asking to have representation on the county's Emergency Operations Command team. Tribune file photo

OLIVIA — Renville County is preparing for the reopening of businesses and government offices, although its Emergency Operations Center team warns that COVID-19 infections will continue to grow.

Jill Bruns, public health director, told the Renville County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the state has been largely successful in flattening the curve, and giving hospitals the time needed to prepare themselves to treat larger numbers of the seriously ill. Now, she said, we will be seeing a steady rise in the number of infected people, as well as deaths. “We expect that, especially as we reopen more,” said Bruns.

Bruns and members of the county’s Emergency Operations Center team discussed preparations for what’s ahead with the commissioners. Bruns said those in long-term care remain the most vulnerable, and the focus of much of their efforts. She pointed out that residents in long-term care represent 80 percent of the deaths due to the virus in Minnesota to date.

She said another concern is the declining ability to conduct investigations to identify those who have been exposed to infected persons. The Minnesota Department of Health has acknowledged it is falling behind, and a more regional approach may be needed, she said.

In the first major step toward the resumption of normal activities, the Olivia Hospital & Clinics system has resumed elective surgeries this week, including colonoscopies, general surgeries, diagnostic mammograms and orthopedic procedures, Nate Blad, CEO, told the commissioners.


Blad said the clinic in Olivia is open for in-patient and virtual visits with individual physicians, as is the walk-in clinic. The satellite clinics have opened on limited schedules. The health system has also resumed offering respiratory and other therapy services.

Gov. Walz signed an executive order May 5 that provided a roadmap for safely restarting elective veterinary, medical and dental procedures that had been on hold during the pandemic.

Blad said the Olivia Hospital & Clinics has been offering testing at three sites — Hector, Renville and Olivia — and they have been “quite busy.” Activity dropped from Thursday through the weekend, a phenomenon that he said was experienced at other HealthPartner locations as well. He said the locations have seen a big influx in scheduled testing Monday, and expects that requests for testing will steadily rise.

In response to questions, the hospital CEO said some of the testing is being requested by people who have had suspected contact with infected persons, and are being cautious and diligent. The majority of tests are being sought by those reporting symptoms of the virus.

Starting May 18, the Olivia Hospital & Clinics will begin offering the serology testing that identifies antibodies and can tell if someone may have had a COVID-19 infection, he added.

Renville County is planning to reopen some county offices on May 18 if allowed by the governor, according to Lisa Herges, county administrator. The governor's current stay-at-home order expires May 18.

Herges said offices that cannot perform their services remotely, including the driver’s license and recorder’s offices, could reopen to the public. Their reopening is contingent on whether the services they offer can be resumed.

Currently, the state is not processing driver’s licenses and the federal government is not handling passport applications.


Herges said plexiglass barriers are being installed. Staff and the public will need to wear face masks.

The county administrator said her goal is to keep as many county employees as possible working from home for as long as possible to reduce the risks of infections.

During discussions this week as in past weeks, commissioners continued to voice their concerns about the economic impact of the business closures.

Commissioner Randy Kramer voiced his concerns, stating “we are not going to have Main Streets anymore” if more steps are not taken to reopen. The commissioner said the curve has been flattened and the ability to test for the virus has increased. There is only so much you can do, he said.

“At some point (you have to) bite the bullet and move forward,” he said.

The Olivia Hospital & Clinics health system resumed offering elective surgeries and in-patient visits with physicians this week. West Central Tribune file photo

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