DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — 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% of the health care provider’s workforce and involves non-medical staff.

The Duluth, Minnesota-based health care provider says it’s projecting a 20% to 40% 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.

Essentia Health serves patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Idaho.

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