Minneapolis receives Ebola preparation funds

Minneapolis receives Ebola preparation funds

Nick Wicker

In the wake of the Ebola epidemic last fall, some city officials say Minneapolis should be more prepared for future outbreaks. The Minnesota Department of Health gave the city $40,000 last week to ensure safety and preparedness in the future and to help residents whose family members fell victim to the disease overseas. Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant said the rash of Ebola cases in the U.S. gave the city a sense of how it can better prepare for future outbreaks, such as with improved communication between city departments and hospitals. âÄúIt is some money for us going forward, should there be any cases of Ebola, but also to help us think about our overall planning for issues like Ebola in the future,âÄù Musicant said. She said the cityâÄôs cost of supplies totaled $30,000 during last yearâÄôs Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but the new grant will not be used to compensate those costs. Pam Blixt, the cityâÄôs public health preparedness manager, said the money will go toward training for police and fire departments and Ebola treatment centers. Dan Johnson Powers, the University of Minnesota medical centerâÄôs emergency manager, said the campusâÄôs Medical Center is one of four facilities in the state equipped to test for and treat the disease. He said the Medical Center will likely take part in drills and training exercises that will be funded by the cityâÄôs new grant. The drills could include meetings with hospital administrators to plan for potential outbreaks, or simulations with fake patients and containment exercises, Johnson Powers said. âÄúWe all benefit from practicing and exercising,âÄù he said. Blixt said she hopes some of the funding goes toward improving communication between city departments and the public in the event of an outbreak. Johnson Powers said the challenge is keeping officials from giving wrong or conflicting information. He said, however, city spokespeople have so far been successful in this regard. Blixt said compared to other areas in the state, Hennepin County has a high concentration of West Africans. She said many of those people have lost family members to the Ebola outbreaks overseas, and portions of the new state funding will provide grief counseling to these residents. The World Health Organization reported last month that more than 10,300 people have died in total from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there were 343 new cases in March. âÄúWeâÄôre going to be working with the community [members] to identify what some of their needs are in terms of support and grief,âÄù Blixt said, âÄúand then devise a plan to try and address those needs.âÄù