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Alomere officials say COVID cases trending down

CEO of Alomere Health shares good news on COVID front; vaccine is on its way.

Alomere Health

There is some good news coming from the COVID-19 front, according to Carl Vaagenes, Alomere Health.

In early November, the hospital was performing up to 180 tests of COVID per day, he said, adding that it has significantly dropped off the last couple of weeks.

“This is really good news on what the community spread looks like,” said Vaagenes during the Alomere Health Board meeting Friday, Dec. 11. He called it a positive trend, but also cautioned that it could change.

Vaagenes also shared information about the number of patients needing hospitalizations for the coronavirus. Since the beginning of December, the hospital has seen a downward trend.


Carl Vaagenes

He didn’t give specifics for Alomere, but said in Greater Minnesota, which includes Alomere, for the time period of Nov. 8 through Dec. 8, there were 620 patients hospitalized and 128 who were in an intensive care unit. Statewide during the same timeframe, there were 1,545 hospitalized with 358 in the ICU.

As of Dec. 8, he said Minnesota is number seven in the nation for its daily new case rate and is labeled as being in a severe outbreak. However, he added that the state, as well as this area, is starting to see some relief in sight.

Vaagenes also gave a snapshot of Alomere COVID statistics as it relates to his staff.

As of Dec. 7, he said 99 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, while 320 employees had been quarantined cumulatively.

As of Nov. 30, of the 335 admissions to the hospital, 36 were for COVID. The average length of stay for the patient was nearly six days.

The breakdown for COVID patients by age is as follows:

  • Age 40-49: 1

  • Age 50-59: 1

  • Age 60-69: 6

  • Age 70-79: 11

  • Age 80-89: 12

  • Age 90-95: 5

He also talked about the number of total tests performed, stating that there were 16,232 total tests, where specimens were collected through drive-up collections, ER, in-patient and pre-op collections in the clinic. Of those, he said 15,729 collections were performed in the drive-up collection sites from April 1 through Dec. 6.
The total number of positive tests was 2,127 or 13% positive overall.


Vaccine is coming

Vaagenes shared some exciting news on the vaccine front. He said the FDA recently approved the vaccine from Pfizer and that Alomere will be getting a shipment. He said the hospital could possibly receive 580 doses, which is close to half of the population of employees.

He said the vaccine will be going to health care workers first , which includes ambulance personnel from North Ambulance.

The efficacy of the vaccine, said Vaagenes, is about 95%.

“This is very good,” he said. “The vaccine is highly effective.”

The COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory for hospital employees, but there will be a push for them to get it, said Vaagenes. A survey will be going out to employees to find out who is interested in receiving the vaccination.

Dr. Deb Dittberner, Alomere Health chief medical officer, said she has spent a massive amount of time studying up on the COVID-19 vaccine and said it is a new model that she called “wise and smart” and said the vaccination is “very safe.”

Dr. Deb Dittberner


Dittberner also talked about COVID-19 and how although it hits people with certain underlying conditions the most, like those who suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, the coronavirus is a vascular disease and not respiratory. She said many patients who have had COVID-19 have more heart issues afterward, including heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Dan Kryder, an internal medicine physician at Alexandria Clinic, chief of staff of the hospital medical board and also the chief medical officer for Horizon Public Health, said the clinic has had multiple patients who have had strokes and/or blood clots after having COVID-19.

Dittberner noted that if a patient dies from a heart attack, stroke or complications from a blood clot, those deaths would not be attributed to COVID-19. She said that needed to be clarified.

She also cleared up the misconception with the vaccine in that the virus is not injected into a person, which is just like a flu shot.

“You are not getting the flu or COVID virus injected into you,” she stated.

As for who will be distributing the vaccine when it is available to the general public, Dittberner said discussions are happening now and that she is open to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies or like how it works for regular flu vaccines.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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