Many people are aware of Countryside Public Health; after all, the agency has served residents of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift, and Yellow Medicine Counties for 40 years. Their mission is to work toward a safe and healthy future for the residents of these counties.

Many people are aware of Countryside Public Health; after all, the agency has served residents of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift, and Yellow Medicine Counties for 40 years. Their mission is to work toward a safe and healthy future for the residents of these counties.

One of the roles of Countryside Public Health has been to prepare a response in collaboration with its partners for emergency events such as the one the area is facing now with COVID-19.

Countryside Public Health uses the National Incident Command System to help manage any emergency response, including infectious disease outbreaks. Gloria Tobias and Dawn Bjorgan are the current Incident Commanders for Countryside Public Health. Tobias has been preparing the agency for an emergency response for 20 years and she will be retiring on May 29. Bjorgan was hired last fall to succeed Tobias.

ICS is structured to facilitate activities in six major functional areas; command operations, planning, logistics, finance, and administration.

Countryside Public Health has been closely monitoring the advance of COVID-19 in its five-county service area. Tobias said: “Countryside Public Health is working actively with our area partners in response to COVID-19. Some of our key partners are health care providers, long-term care facilities, family services, emergency management, local governments, schools, day care facilities, and food, beverage, and lodging facilities.”

According to Tobias, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) notifies Countryside Public Health when a positive test occurs in one of the five counties served by the agency. They also have a referral process with the area health care facilities to work with those who test positive for COVID-19 by providing education and support.

Once Countryside receives a report of a positive case within one of the five counties, certain protocols are followed. “Our Incident Command structure assigns a public health staff person to monitor the patient,” said Tobias. “We then find out if that patient needs essential services delivered. If the patient requires these services, the Essential Service Team will deliver the needed services.”

Countryside Public Health, in partnership with the MDH, is responsible to monitor and care for the general population by performing contact tracing. “Contact tracing and monitoring can be done by phone,” said Tobias.

When making contact with an individual who has tested positive for the virus, a number of questions are asked. Tobias said: “We ask basic screening questions. When was the onset of the symptoms? What symptoms are shown? Have they been hospitalized? Have they traveled within the past 14 days? Have they had any known contact with someone else who had symptoms or a positive diagnosis?”

According to Tobias, other questions are asked regarding what their job is, have they been working, do they work at a health care facility, congregate facility, or attend a college or university.

Countryside Public Health recommends that individuals who test positive for the virus follow all MDH and CDC guidelines. Tobias said: “Isolation is recommended for those who are ill and test positive for COVID-19. Those patients must isolate for 10 days and be fever-free for 72 hours. Quarantine patients are people who are in the same household or have been in contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19, and these people must quarantine for 14 days and monitor symptoms.”

According to Tobias, once an individual has completed their self-isolation period and is free of any symptoms or fever, they are free to terminate self-isolation on their own without needing to see a doctor.