When lives are at stake in Otter Tail County it is common to see Ringdahl Ambulance speeding toward the scene.
The well-known service has been headquartered in Fergus Falls for decades. Ringdahl ambulance services can be found in the Minnesota communities of Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids and the North Dakota communities of Jamestown, Casselton and Lisbon.
As of Thursday there were 346 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and 37 of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
The COVID-19 threat has not touched Otter Tail County yet but it is demanding the best from those in the field of emergency services.
“We’ve added additional staff to meet the potential demand,” Ringdahl operations director Randy Fischer said Thursday afternoon, as Minnesota readied itself to meet the threat which led Gov. Tim Walz to issue the shelter-in-place order for Minnesota’s 5.64 million residents.
Walz said that his order, which takes effect Saturday and runs until April 11, cannot change the fact that more Minnesotans will become infected but the order should push out the time of peak infections so enough of the state’s 235 intensive care unit (ICU) beds are available. He is expecting 15% of COVID-19 cases will need hospitalization and 5% are going to need ICU help.
Fischer and his crews know as well as anyone that the coronavirus which inspired Wednesday’s shelter-in-place order is extremely contagious. The lives of his staff are as important to Fischer as the lives of the patients they convey to medical facilities.
“We take universal precautions,” Fischer said. “That includes M95 masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection.”
So far the COVID-19 scare has not had a big impact on Ringdahl’s normal operations according to Fischer.
“We train for that so we try and prevent any type of transmission,” Fischer said.
Ringdahl has three crews on duty 24/7 between their Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids stations.
The demands on the health of his paramedics and EMTs have always been great according to Fischer so taking the best care of themselves is always in their minds. “They do shift work,” Fischer said. “They are no different than any of the other emergency services.”