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La Crosse’s Mayo testing 40-60 a day, but supplies, staff could become issue

Rick Solem

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There are only five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in La Crosse County.

It seems like a bit of a surprising number, considering the number of people tested so far at just one hospital in town.

“Probably looking at about 300-350 people who have been tested at Mayo Clinic,” said Mayo chief nursing officer Jason Fratzke, who is also the Incident Commander of the hospital’s COVID-19 HICS response team. “As an institution, we’ve been doing somewhere between 40-60 (tests) a day, depending on the day.”

Everything seems ‘so far, so good’ in town, but the supplies are still a big question.

“Supply, it comes and goes,” Fratzke said. “We’re in an OK place right now. Just from a swab, using what we use to do the test itself in the nasopharynx area, we’re OK now.

“Those were in short supply probably about a week in a half, two weeks ago. We did get an additional supply for, at least, a little time.”

About a month ago, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., developed a way to test for COVID-19. The tests take just a few hours to confirm once at Rochester, but that, too, is becoming a problem — transporting the tests from La Crosse.

“Had some shortages in what we need to put the swab in to transport it to the lab,” Fratzke said. “We’re doing OK but I know, right now at Mayo Clinic, we’re looking at ways — alternative ways — to find transportation that we can do without the medium. Lots of research is going in on that.”

Fratzke also mentioned that’s not the only thing they’re looking into when it comes to the supply chain. Masks are in short supply in multiple places. In other states, health care workers have been put to the task of makeshift sewing camps to create cloth masks.

“We’re in a place where we are good for, at least, a little stretch,” Fratzke said. “It is a little bit nerve wracking because we’re going to be at the whim of the companies that produce those kinds of things.

“Utilization of those masks, depends on how many patients you have in the facility. Right now, we have a handful of patients in our facilities, so it doesn’t burn up our PPE equipment, our masks, as quickly.”

Those potential problems, of course, all stem from physical supplies. There’s also a human element. Mayo sent out a press release Monday that staff should stay home if they’re experiencing any symptoms of the virus. Staff are also having their temperatures taken twice a day.

“Our resource limits may be people and to care for (anyone infected), because we imagine even some our employees may be unfortunate to become (COVID-19) positive,” Fratzke said. “We’re definitely talking about, ‘How do we surge up?’

“At Mayo, we’re talking about doubling or even beyond that, our capacity, where we’d do that. That is active work that’s occurring.”

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