Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Keep your body, mind and heart healthy during coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the coronavirus pandemic has progressed, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) is continually monitoring the situation and taking all necessary precautions to always keep our patients, employees and partners healthy and safe. During this difficult time, we stress the importance of taking precautions and taking good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Our hearts go out to those affected by COVID-19 and we are extremely grateful to our physicians, nurses, other care team members and everyone in our greater health care community for their commitment to caring for patients.

Important MHIF & Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Click on the topics below to learn more about coronavirus and how MHIF is navigating the pandemic.

A note from MHIF Leadership


Dear MHIF Friends,

During this time of change and uncertainty, Dr. Scott Sharkey and I are thinking of you and hoping you all are taking precautions to take good care of yourself and your loved ones. We also would like to update you on how MHIF is navigating through this time, always putting our patients, employees and partners first. We are committed to deliver on our mission of heart and vascular health under any circumstance.

As you can imagine COVID-19 is impacting cardiovascular research and education and we are making the necessary adjustments daily. Many of our clinical trials are on hold so we can ensure the safety of current study participants and ensure our physicians are available to respond to the most critical cases. Research staff is busy reaching out personally to our patient research participants. And 14 members of our research staff have volunteered to serve on the front line in the heart hospital and clinic.

Specific research is able to continue during this time including the majority of our physician-initiated research which is core to our mission.

We are providing education remotely and have postponed large public education events. Our first Grand Rounds session done remotely was a success with 45 individuals joining us.

Although we have a critical mass of employees physically at MHIF to make sure our work moves forward, the majority of our staff who are able to are now working from home. This is an opportunity to take care of important projects that will strengthen the infrastructure of MHIF, helping us to be even stronger when we can resume all research and education efforts.

Most importantly we want to say thank you for caring about how COVID-19 is impacting the work of MHIF.  We have received many calls and emails with offers of help and support. It is encouraging to see so many doing what it takes to navigate these uncertain times. We are proud to work toward a healthier tomorrow with the encouragement and support from all of you.

We will continue to provide you updates as we move forward. Know that we are here for you if you have any questions. You can reach us at 612-863-3833 or Stay safe and healthy.


With Gratitude,

Kris Fortman, CEO

Dr. Scott Sharkey, Chief Medical Officer

Physician perspectives on coronavirus (COVID-19)

April 20, 2020

Collaboration is Key to Understanding Cardiovascular Impact of COVID-19: Perspective from Steven M. Bradley, MD, MPH, FACC

As we learn more about the COVID-19 virus and patient cases around the world, we are seeing data and information evolve every day. Specific to cardiovascular health and impact, we are identifying interesting trends and working hard to determine if they are directly related to COVID-19. These discoveries can also help us understand if there are protocols we can follow to ensure the best outcomes for our patients.

We don’t have all the answers, but I can assure you there are a lot of researchers working to find them. I am witnessing a tremendous amount of collaboration and effort to globally understand the COVID-19 pandemic, including as it relates to cardiovascular impact. We are generating knowledge and sharing information as quickly as possible.

A great example of this is the American Heart Association (AHA) COVID-19 registry that has been initiated with participation from hospitals across the U.S. The Minneapolis Heart Institute® is a participating center and MHIF will be helping with data abstraction. As a member of the Steering Committee for this registry, I am proud to be contributing to an effort that will gather data from patient cases around the country. As the mass of data builds, we anticipate rapidly completing studies to understand the cardiovascular effects of COVID-19 infection.

Data is critical to this effort and the more we can learn, the more we can rapidly adjust and ensure we are delivering the best care to patients. I am proud to be part of research at a time when I see so many colleagues working together to address the pandemic we are currently facing.

Hear more of Dr. Bradley’s perspective about the cardiovascular impact of COVID-19 on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) – Almanac Coronavirus Special – originally aired on April 17.

Learn more about the American Heart Association COVID-19 Patient Registry Study; Dr. Bradley is on the Steering Committee and MHIF will be helping with data abstraction.


April 6, 2020

A note from Santiago Garcia, MD, FACC, FSCAI

The novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is highly contagious in the community and has resulted in a global pandemic (1). As of April 2nd, more than 1,000,000 cases and 50,000 deaths have been reported worldwide (2).

The United States of America (USA) has reported cases in all 50 states and leads the world in number of COVID-19 confirmed cases (2). Patients with cardiovascular risk factors or established cardiovascular disease who become infected with COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe forms of the disease, require intensive care unit (ICU) care and have increased mortality (3). Because the virus is highly contagious, it poses a serious threat to healthcare workers, which account for up to 13% of COVID-19 infections in Spain.

What are we doing to protect healthcare workers?

Researchers at MHIF have contributed to a scientific statement on Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This document provides guidance on optimal triaging of COVID patients prior to invasive procedure, personal protective equipment (PPE) and staffing models that take into account potential unmitigated exposure of the cardiovascular team.

Available at:

Are there unique features of COVID patients presenting with heart attacks?

Cardiac damage is present in 15% – 25% of patients with COVID-19 infection and is associated with excess mortality (4). It is expected that many of these patients will require invasive coronary angiography, hemodynamic assessment and/or mechanical circulatory support (6, 7).

Early anecdotal reports indicate that among COVID-19 positive patients with typical ST-elevation on electrocardiograms (ECG), emergent angiography has revealed a surprising variety of results. As this is a rapidly evolving pandemic with a paucity of data to drive clinical decision making and protect health workers, The Society of Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) and The Canadian Association of Interventional Cardiology (CAIC) joined forces to create an observational registry of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases who present with features suggestive of a heart attack ( .

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) will serve as the international coordinating and data center for the North American COVID-19 ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction Registry (NACMI) in addition to enrolling patients into the study. The registry is a collaborative effort between the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) and the Canadian Association of Interventional Cardiology (CAIC). Santiago Garcia, MD, interventional cardiologist and MHIF researcher, is the primary investigator for MHIF. Learn more here.

See references here.

Online resources:


March 25, 2020

A note from Scott Sharkey, MD, President & Chief Medical Officer

Minnesota has exceptional professionals working around the clock in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Commissioner of Health; Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the U of MN; the employees of 3M (they manufacture protective masks), and Medtronic (they make ventilators); and countless other health care providers and industry partners.

At the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) our leadership team immediately developed a plan to ensure the health of our staff, while continuing our important research and contributing where possible. Some key highlights to share with you:

  • Our research cardiologists and advanced practitioners are available to our research patients during this difficult time. Please know that we will get through this together!
  • Much of our research can continue because of our information technology infrastructure. Most of this research is part of physician-initiated studies that seek to answer important clinical and scientific questions that come from our physicians’ passion to answer, “what can we do better to care for our patients?”
  • Many of our MHIF nurses and phlebotomists have volunteered to help work at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
  • Lisa Tindell, who leads the MHIF research team, organized a blood donation campaign with MHIF employees.
  • Our regulatory specialists are assisting our colleagues in critical-care medicine and infectious disease to fast-track use of experimental anti-viral drugs and novel ventilators.

Research and science are the solution to this pandemic and there are so many people working hard to contribute to this around the world.

MHIF has a 38-year history of innovation showing the impact of research and problem solving. We all will rise to this challenge. Our founding physicians and community members are more engaged now than they ever have been.

Please stay connected with us through our website or any of our channels on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram). We would love to hear from you. We will get through this together!


What research is MHIF involved in related to coronavirus (COVID-19)?

April 10, 2020

MHIF Real-Time Data Analysis from Nine Large U.S STEMI Centers

Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) published a real-time data analysis showing that during this COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a 38-percent reduction in U.S. cardiac catheterization laboratory STEMI activations, which are the standard-of-care treatment for patients with heart attacks.

“It is critical to understand if patient-based anxiety is leading to this decrease of patients seeking care for the signs and symptoms of a heart attack,” said Santiago Garcia, MD, interventional cardiologist and MHIF researcher. “While we are all concerned about COVID-19 exposure, patients also need to know that avoiding care and treatment could be dangerous for certain acute cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks. In these situations, timing is key and hospitals across the country are following careful procedures to keep patients safe from COVID-19 exposure, while providing life-saving treatments for other cardiovascular conditions.”

Given current potential environmental and emotional stressors, and a higher case of STEMI that is typically induced by viral illness, this is a departure from the increase in STEMI procedures that would have been expected.

The data was pulled from the MHIF regional Level One STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or heart attack) program that includes data reported from nine participating U.S. STEMI Centers. This finding is consistent with the reduction reported in Spain.

The analysis was published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (

Learn more here.

April 6, 2020

MHIF is International Coordinating and Data Center for the North American COVID-19 ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction Registry

MHIF is serving as the international coordinating and data center for the North American COVID-19 ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction Registry (NACMI) in addition to enrolling patients into the study.

The goal is this will provide physicians insight into the clinical characteristics, treatment strategies, and outcomes of STEMI patients with COVID-19 infection. This registry has the potential to provide critically important time-sensitive data to inform the management and treatment guidelines applicable to COVID-19 patients. 

Learn more here.

Where can I stay up-to-date on coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and health resources?
Keep your mind and body healthy during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Health & Wellness Tips from Dr. Courtney Baechler

#1) Sleep
Sleep is the most important thing we can do to improve our immune system. If we were to get sick, we want all cylinders on go. It’s critical that we give our bodies enough sleep – for most, that’s about 8 hours per night.

Times like this can create additional anxiety and angst so it is also an important time to use good nighttime rituals:

  • Turn off electronics (including TV) at least 45 minutes before bedtime. We don’t want images that evoke fear to be racing through our bed prior to sleeping.
  • Avoid blue light that emits from those screens.
  • This is a good time to do some stretching, read a book, practice some meditation, or consider a calming tea.

#2) Exercise 

The benefits of exercise can’t be emphasized enough. This is another way that we best facilitate our strongest immune system. While many gyms are closed, it’s important that people keep up movement. In my opinion, while any exercise will do, getting outside provides the best opportunity to do two things at once. Consider all of the different great ways to move your body:

  • biking
  • walking, running
  • hiking
  • canoeing, kayaking, etc.
  • games from your childhood: capture the flag, kick the can, hide and go see

For those of you that either need to stay inside or have mobility issues, there are more options than ever online right now.

#3) Aromatherapy

Have you ever tried it? It’s something cheap and easy to understand that you could easily order online today! One ways that our bodies learn to feel calm is by our senses. Our sense of smell is often one we forget to tap into.

Our sense of smell is connected to the nervous system, which helps regulate our limbic system and ultimately helps to control our emotions.

Depending on the smell that is used, it can be a way to help calm you, control anxiety quickly, or improve nausea. It can also be stimulating and activating. Aromatherapy is something we routinely use at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Lavender is perhaps the most widely used scent to help calm. I prefer using an inhaler for aromatherapy, but you can also simply place some lavender oil on a cotton ball and place it on your pajamas using safety pin to help with sleep.

Peppermint aromatherapy is something I often use in the afternoon when I feel I need something to help me feel more “alert” if you hit a 3 pm slump. There are lots of videos available on-line to help you understand how to safely use the aromatherapy option you choose.


#4) Nutrition 

One of the best ways our bodies receives information about how it’s doing is through nutrition. When we go to the grocery stores right now, many of the items low in inventory because so many people have purchased them are items that come in boxes and cans (noodles, soups, cereal, etc). Yet, the fresh produce is fairly full!

One of the best things we can do is to choose more fruits, vegetables and whole foods. These are packed with antioxidants and nutrients that best support our immune system.

A few things to consider:

  • My go-to resources for nutrition are the anti-inflammatory diet with Dr. Andrew Weil and the Mediterranean diet.
  • While these allow you to keep your immune system in optimal shape, you are also decreasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc. ​​​​​
  • Most importantly, you will be amazed at how much calm eating the right foods can create.
  • It’s easy for us to go to meals filled with carbohydrates and unhealthy fats that we often describe as comfort foods; unless they are filled with power-packed veggies and fruits, we are only fueling our body with a blood sugar spike that ends in collapse and also makes us feel those same highs and lows in our mood.
  • Instead, try my favorite comfort meal:  brown rice, black beans, onions, tomatoes, sesame seeds, and avocados…perfect to produce a sense of calm, packed with antioxidants, easy to do with leftovers for lunch!


#5) Music

Again, the power of the senses! What we hear makes a huge difference in our sense of well-being. Have you noticed when we leave the news on in the background all day long you feel a bit on edge? Here’s what we know about music:

  • Music is a core function in our brain. ​​​​​​Our bodies entrain to rhythm.
  • We have a physiologic response to music. Music taps into our emotions.
  • Music helps improve our attention skills.
  • Music enhances learning.
  • Music taps into our memories.
  • Music is a social experience.
  • Music is predictable, structured and organized, and our brains love that!
  • Try changing what you are hearing and see how your mood changes.

This is what my day looks like for music: ​​​​​​I have a monthly subscription to Pandora, but Spotify or others will also work. I start out with the “Chill Station Radio” or the “Coffeehouse Radio” and it makes me feel like I’m doing my work in a coffeehouse in Europe, which brings back great memories for me.

As the day moves on and I move to exercise outside, I often switch to a “hip hop station,” which for me motivates me, energizes me and makes me feel alive inside.

While I’m preparing my dinner, I usually listen to “cool jazz radio.” All of these make me feel calm throughout the day and they are just there in the background helping to remind me, it’s all going to be okay.

I would emphasize this is very personal so finding out what is best for you is part of the fun…maybe it’s classical, alternative or punk. What matters is that it enhances your state and doesn’t detract from it.

#6) Getting Outside

Have you ever noticed how your problems seem to melt away when you go outside? There is something about nature and its ability to recognize what’s bigger than all of us individually.

This is a time where it can be ideal to take off head phones and head outside. Hear the wind, notice signs of spring, listen to the birds, feel the crisp air, enjoy a moment of strong sunshine and remember that summer is around the corner.

All of these things remind us that the world is continuing to spin, that the sun is rising each day and setting each night and it truly sets an inner calm for our body. For those of you that have mobility issues or face other challenges that prevent you from getting outside on your own, move a chair into the area in your house with the most sunshine and open up a window. Even if this requires you to grab a blanket, it’s so important for our bodies.

As these days and weeks go by, try to keep an eye on what’s changing: the sun is coming up earlier, the trees are starting to bud, the grass is getting greener, those birds are getting louder, the flowers are popping. This helps our bodies start to feel optimism, which is critical right now.


#7) Meditation

During this time of increased uncertainty and changes occurring at rapid speed, it is normal to feel slightly anxious, on edge, perhaps somewhat depressed. It’s helpful to have tools at your fingertips to help influence your mood and overall wellbeing. Meditation is another one of my favorites.

Meditation has been shown to have the following impact: soothe anxiety, upgrade attention, improve mood, increase compassion, reduce stress effects, slow aging, lower pain, support mental health, manage cancer, and boost immunity. I’ll take a dose of that right now!

I remember when I first started to think about a meditation practice, and it was quite overwhelming. My thoughts are busy in my head and the idea of simply being quiet and still seemed impossible.

I discovered some apps like “Headspace” which are usually 5-minute meditations led by an instructor that help guide your thoughts and meditations for busy minds. Headspace has a trial period that is completely free, as well as portion of the platform that is always free. “Calm” is another meditation app that I love. It also has a free trial period and has shorter meditations available as you begin to “train your mind.”

Speaking of training, it turns out our brains are muscles, just like our quads and biceps, that need to be exercised to build up to larger endurance training. Start small — research shows that as little as 5 minutes of meditation can have the effects that are listed above.

#8) The Practice of Gratitude

It turns out most of us are hard wired to see the world as “half-empty” or “half-full.” But, you can actually rewire your brain to be more optimistic, it just takes some practice.

This is what we call neuroplasticity – defined as the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning, experience or following injury.

By simply thinking of three things you are grateful for, and either writing them down or saying them out loud, you can actually start to rewire your brain to think differently.

My first child, Sophia, seemed to take the world and all of its problems much more seriously than her younger brother, Will. It wasn’t even a bad thing, but it was clear she was a sponge for sadness, people’s feelings, and troubles in the world. During this time, I was reading the work of psychologist Martin Seligman and his books Positive Psychology and Flourish. We started a gratitude practice at dinner each night as a family. Since Sophia was only four at the time, there was often lots of silly answers but that’s what is so neat about gratitude; it doesn’t matter what you say or how deep it is. It’s more about the practice of reframing things.

Even during a pandemic, practicing gratitude helps our brains produce neurohormones that keep us happy and calm. For me, it’s easiest to do a gratitude practice right before a meal because it doesn’t seem like another thing I have to do, and instead feels more like a conversation starter. Try it out and see how you feel, especially after an extra crazy day. It only takes a few moments to help your brain realize that even in the chaos, we have a lot to be grateful for.


Other Health & Wellness Tips During COVID-19

  • Call your family members and friends often; share something you appreciate with them at least once a day.
  • Set a goal for something healthy you will do each day.
  • If you drink, drink in moderation: One drink a day for women; two drinks a day for men.
  • Write emails or letters to family and friends.
  • Write thank-you notes to health care workers and emergency responders.
  • Video chat if you have technology that allows it.
  • Continue to take your medications as prescribed.
  • Get more support. Talking to others can help you feel connected.
  • It’s a short-term strategy, but it’s tough to feel stressed when you laugh. Tell a friend a joke or watch a funny TV show.
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Take a break from the news! Read a book, do a crossword puzzle.
  • Take five minutes to relax. Meditation is a great way to relax the mind and body.
  • Watch a favorite movie.
  • Do a hobby or crafts.
  • Look through old photos.
  • Make watching TV active: stretch or use hand weights (canned goods work, too) during the commercials.
  • Plan the garden you want to plant in the spring!
  • Pet your dog or cat if you have one; petting an animal for just a few minutes can also help relieve stress.

Manage Your Stress Levels

It isn’t often talked about, but your mind has a strong effect on your heart. Stress, depression and lack of sleep have a major influence on your heart disease risk factors, and ultimately, what you do about them. In other words, people who do not manage their stress, feel depressed most of the time or are chronically sleep-deprived also tend to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and are more likely to use tobacco or be overweight. These factors also make it extremely difficult to make improvements to your lifestyle, whether it is taking medication each day, eating healthy foods or getting enough exercise. Stress, depression and sleep can be difficult to manage at times, but with the right help, you can improve them.

Here are some companies offering free options for stress-reducing activities you can do at home:

1) Free Corepower yoga classes

2) Calm App offers an assortment of free breathing and meditation exercises



Grateful Heart

Gratitude is strongly linked to good health. To stay positive during this difficult time, we’re encouraging you to focus on gratitude. 

Use the link below to submit your word of gratitude and watch our Grateful Heart grow! 

Sign up for ‘Grateful Heart Gram’ emails

We want to stay engaged with you! Get updates on what you can do during social distancing and how to practice gratitude.