Local doctor stresses need for Cloquet residents to stay home

Officials at a Cloquet press conference say testing and PPE equipment is in short supply, but all are working to prepare for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients.

Community Memorial Hospital CEO Rick Breuer, at right, and Dr. Charles Kendall practice 'social distancing' during a City of Cloquet press conference regarding COVID-19 on Monday, March 30. (Dave Harwig / Pine Journal)

Leaders from local government, health care and schools gathered at Cloquet City Hall Monday, March 30, to provide updates on the evolving coronavirus crisis and stress the need for residents to remain at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the illness.

Dr. Charles Kendall, a family physician at Cloquet’s Raiter Clinic and the director of medicine at Community Memorial Hospital, is heading up CMH’s response to the outbreak. He highlighted the hospital’s efforts to limit exposure to patients and employees, as well as the limited amount of testing and personal protective equipment such as N95 masks.

Kendall said right now the hospital has enough supplies, but if Carlton County experiences an outbreak like what has been seen in other areas, CMH is woefully lacking.

CMH Chief Executive Officer Rick Breuer, Carlton County Director of Public Health Dave Lee, Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Kevin Schroeder and Interim Cloquet Police Chief Derek Randall all echoed Kendall’s message about the need for supplies.

Kendall also strongly encouraged the Cloquet community to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


“The places that have gotten it under control are doing two things: They are testing a lot and they are shutting down the communities, having people stay home," he said.

There simply aren’t enough tests in the U.S. right now for doctors to test like they need to. Instead, the nation is left with the need to shelter in place while shuttering businesses and schools. Right now, CMH is only testing those who are hospitalized with respiratory illnesses, health care workers with symptoms and residents of nursing homes.

“As hard as it is for those that aren’t able to work right now because of this, please stay home,” Kendall said. “I had three different people come up to me this week at work and tell me that they were at Walmart (and people) weren’t following the guidelines ... That’s really concerning to me, because that really is what could stem the tide. I’m asking everyone in this community to step up and stay home and try to protect all of us in this community.”

Staying home and limiting contact with other people is the best way to “slow the surge,” Kendall said and help prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Breuer reiterated Kendall’s message about staying home and the need for supplies. CMH has postponed all non-essential surgeries and is limiting visitors to the hospital. In addition, all visitors and employees are being screened for potential symptoms of COVID-19.

He also said CMH is trying to keep its entire staff working and ready for an expected surge in infections that could come in the near future.

“We’ve heard of some organizations beginning layoffs,” Breuer. “We are keeping everyone on board at this time. We have a plan to make that work, and we think that is very important. Within a very short order of time, it is going to be all hands on deck.”

Fire district remains fully staffed

Schroeder also detailed some changes to the way the CAFD is handling calls and cases. Its facilities are closed to the public, but the department is fully staffed.


“We remain fully functional and operational at this point,” Schroeder said. “We are functioning at normal capacity and have even increased some of our staffing in our volunteer areas and rural areas.”

Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Kevin Schroeder. (Dave Harwig / Pine Journal)

People who need service will see some small changes. When they respond to calls, CAFD personnel may be wearing masks or other equipment — even when it seems unnecessary — and there are plans to send just one person to the door initially to determine what level of protection is needed.

“We are protecting ourselves and you as we enter your home,” Schroeder said.

CAFD will also be making some decisions on when and who to transport to a health care facility and there could be a slight delay in response times to non-life threatening incidents.

“We may do an evaluation and choose to not take you to a health care facility because you don’t reach certain requirements,” Schroeder said. “You will get information on how to care for yourself and stay at home.”

Schroeder also noted there has been an uptick in home fires recently. He asked residents to check the batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Residents should also be more “fire safe” and aware of the increased use of appliances since they are spending more time at home.


As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
What To Read Next
Get Local