LA CRESCENT, Minn. - (WXOW) - Mayo Clinic held a COVID update to discuss number of cases, testing, and availability in hospitals in the surrounding communities and the Midwest.
Over the weekend they saw a drop in the number of tests being done which Dr. Amy Williams, MD, Executive Dean of Mayo Clinic Practice said could be a sign of less exposure in the community and fewer people having symptoms which is a positive thing.
She explained that they are also seeing a "glimmer of hope" in positivity rates in the different regions in the Midwest where Mayo Clinic is.
"In Rochester, we are finally below 10%," said Dr. Williams. "We haven't been below 10% positivity rate for weeks so this is a very good sign and I hope it's not just a blip."
At all other sites they are below 20% positivity rate. Some sites in Wisconsin were above 30% at one point.
Williams explained that southwest Wisconsin did go up from about 19% to 26% and while they aren't positive why, she said a large number of people were being tested there in order to be able to travel home for the holidays which many won't be able to do if their tests return positive.
"What this does tell us is that we still have spread in our communities, 100% we do and we need to do every possible thing to decrease the spread or we are not going to get out of this surge," said Williams.
She says masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene is crucial now more than ever. Williams explained that there has been a lot of controversy around masks but a recent study found strong evidence that masking and distancing is key.
As far as the capacity available in hospitals go, Williams said that capacity is about three things: staffing, space, and supplies.
"In Rochester we have expanded our ICU's and we have expanded our general care beds so that we can care for patients across our system who need ICU care and general care whether they have COVID or not," said Williams.
She explained that staffing is critical and only 2.8% of staff in the Midwest were unable to work due to COVID related issues at their peak. That is now down to 2.6% which Williams says is a good sign.
93% of those who are out for COVID reasons is because of exposure in the community.
"All the medical staff across the Midwest and the U.S. are tired," said Williams. "They have been working incredibly hard, multiple shifts for months, for almost 11 months."
Williams said that staying away from large gatherings this holiday season is going to be key to keeping people healthy and slowing the surge.
"All of us have traditions that we want to continue and we are unable to this holiday season, but by decreasing huge gatherings, by staying masked, by staying away from each other and social distancing, you are saving out communities and possibly those in your family from getting COVID-19 and for some, having bad outcomes," said Williams.
"I really encourage people, although it is a sacrifice, to celebrate with your household family and not extend those because you may be putting yourselves or others at risk," said Williams.
Mayo Clinic is collaborating with the Minnesota Health Department across all layers to manage the spread and surge of COVID right now. Williams said that if you are exposed, you need to quarantine for at least 14 days and just because you test negative, doesn't mean you won't spread it a few days later.