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Essentia Health laid off about 900 across its network Thursday, including 15 percent in the East Market region that includes Virignia. About 55 percent of the cuts were in the Twin Ports area.

Essentia Health has placed 500 employees on unpaid leave as it deals with the financial impact of canceled surgeries and appointments because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move affects about 3 percent of the health care provider’s workforce and involves non-medical staff.

A breakdown of where those employees are based was not available. Essentia, a Duluth-based health care provider, operates the hospital in Virginia and Aurora, and across the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho.

The provider said it’s projecting a 20 percent to 40 percent decrease in revenue due to fewer patients because of COVID-19.

In a news release, Essentia said staffing levels will be evaluated continually. Some states have mandated an end to elective surgeries and nonessential appointments in order to deal with COVID-19 cases.

“The decision to refocus our operations for the coming COVID-19 surge is difficult because we deeply appreciate the contributions of all our Essentia colleagues,” said Dr. David Herman, Essentia CEO. “We recognize and regret the hardship this uncertainty will have on our co-workers and their families.”

Those placed on leave will be able to keep their health insurance for now, the release said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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A sign on the door of the Fairview Clinic in Mountain Iron tells patients that the clinic has been closes and gives a phone number to call for other options.

Fairview goes virtual

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in northeast Minnesota, Fairview Range President and CEO Patrick Sharp has announced that Fairview Mesaba Clinics will move to a “virtual first” patient care model.

“The health and safety of our patients, staff and community is paramount,” Sharp said in a press release sent to the Hibbing Daily Tribune via email on Monday. “Like many healthcare facilities, we are reserving face-to-face visits for urgent conditions and using advanced virtual-care technologies to meet the needs of patients with less urgent conditions.”

Beginning on Tuesday, March 31, the Fairview Mesaba Clinics in Nashwauk and Mountain Iron will be temporarily closed, with in-person care moving to the Fairview Mesaba Clinic-Hibbing location. Also, Fairview Range JobCare and Chiropractic services at Fairview Plaza will not be offered at this time.

Fairview declined to immediately comment further when reached by email Tuesday.

Patients with already-scheduled appointments will be contacted with more information about whether their appointment will take place in-person or via a virtual care option. Patients requiring in-person appointments will be seen at the Fairview Mesaba Clinic-Hibbing location.

Fairview Mesaba Clinic patients will continue to receive care through alternative options, including E-visits and secure messaging to their providers through MyChart; telephone visits; video visits; and OnCare.org — a 24/7 online clinic, in which patients meet virtually with a provider from their own homes.

“Delivering most care virtually allows for appropriate social distancing while maintaining a small core of healthcare workers on site,” Sharp said in the statement. “We are urging patients to call 218-362-6682 for assistance before coming in so that we can assess their condition.”

“Our Fairview Range team has really done a great job in preparing for this,” Sharp continued. “I want to let our patients know we are here to provide their care. It may be a little different than what they’re used to but we stand ready to provide the same high-quality, personal care throughout this challenging time.”

Fairview Range continues to strongly encourage patients, their families and community members to take everyday precautions to protect against respiratory illnesses caused by COVID-19, in addition to the flu and the common cold. All are being encouraged to find up-to-date information on the Fairview website at www.fairview.org.

Fairview Range is a family of medical providers based in Hibbing, and includes Fairview Range Medical Center, Fairview Mesaba Clinics ( locations in Hibbing, Nashwauk and Mountain Iron), home care, hospice and a medical supply provider.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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