Our opinion: Do your part to avoid ‘twindemic’

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 19, 2020

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Last week’s push by Mayo Clinic doctors to get your flu shot this year comes at a crossroads for Minnesota and our area and puts into perspective just how big this moment is.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still battering Americans, the introduction of the flu season threatens to compound the situation and further magnifies the idea that this overarching situation is more than just ourselves.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that between 12,000-61,000 have died annually since 2010. Nationally, we are just a hair’s breadth away from topping 200,000 dead from the coronavirus.

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Added together, this potential ‘twindemic’ can rain another hammerblow on ourselves, our hospitals and our economy — A blow we don’t need.

In a stand alone flu season, unburdened by any other pandemic, hospitals can face a wave of illnesses that can put a strain on the system.

“Every year, in December to January, we see an influenza surge in our hospitals,” said Mayo Director of Southeast Minnesota Primary Care Sarah Crane earlier this week last week. “There is a peak, it’s a given. During those time periods under normal circumstances we are very, very busy. Our ability as a health care system to handle that peak on top of COVID numbers will be one of our biggest issues.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic gained its horrible momentum, health experts were concerned about the stresses on hospitals that it could potentially bring. That was born out during the height of the pandemic, when reports came in from Arizona and Florida of low numbers of ventilators available. In Florida, a large number of hospitals reported at one point they had no ventilators left.

In Minnesota, we are walking a fine line. Not long ago cases in the state began spiking. Those numbers appear to be stabilizing somewhat, but are susceptible to sliding back up if we’re not careful; a scary situation now that we’re talking about the flu season.

Once again, the ability to help stem this looming threat is in our hands and it starts and ends with getting vaccinated.

Later this month, Mayo Clinic will begin a major push to get people vaccinated. In the local hubs of Rochester, Albert Lea, Red Wing, Owatonna and right here in Austin, central locations will be set up to quickly and efficiently vaccinate people.

Getting signed up is as easy as either going through your own patient portal online or by calling to make an appointment; however, Mayo really pushes making appointments online to help facilitate this effort.

The flu is going to be here whether we want it to or not. We are now partners with Mayo and other healthcare providers and as partners it is up to us to do whatever we can in this situation. Get vaccinated. This is about our community.