ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Together we'll get through this. That's the message Rochester leaders want community members to hear less than a week before Thanksgiving.
City leaders, health officials and frontline workers gathered virtually Friday afternoon to give that message; amid the most significant surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations the area has seen to date.
"We've entered into a new phase of this pandemic," Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said. "We knew it was coming, cases are on the rise."
Minnesota, along with the upper Midwest has entered a new phase. One with a new record breaking surge of coronavirus cases.
"We did experience a small surge, but nothing to what we are experiencing now," Mayo Clinic Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Elie Berbari said.
"It's causing strain to our community, well beyond the health department," Olmsted County Public Health Director Graham Briggs said.
While this surge is something health leaders prepared for, they're also asking for community members to do their parts. "We did spend most of the spring and summer preparing for this moment," Dr. Berbari said.
He compared it to training, and now competing.
During the meeting, Rochester leaders urged the public to help our first and only defense against the virus.
"It's our community that can help protect them," he added. "You can help us, with this first line of defense by following the governor's new executive orders and continuing to wear a mask, like Mayo Norton just showed everybody. Avoiding bringing people together outside your immediate household and stay away from people if you get sick."
In doing this, health leaders say it's helping lighten the load on those carrying the burden.
"As we continue to see that surge in COVID-19 cases, we know it's going to continue, not just for medical staff and patients for everyone in the community. We are exhausted and we are tired," Mayo Clinic COVID Unit Nurse Manager Kim Brake said. "...We need to remember that we are all in this together. It's a community effort and if we can all practice these safe behaviors and encourage others to do it, we are going to slow that spread."
"Health care workers have been the real heroes in this pandemic," Briggs added.