12-7 COVID-19 Update: Minnesota Adjusts Quarantine Guidance for Some to 10 Days
Governor Walz to Give COVID-19 Update with the MDH
The Minnesota Department of Health held a conference call Monday, Dec. 7, to brief members of the media on the latest public health information regarding COVID-19. This is a summary of that media briefing. You can watch the full briefing here.
MN Governor Tim Walz:
- Passed another milestone — over 4,000 Minnesotans have died from COVID-19
- We are in the heart of the pandemic.
- This surge is different, not just in terms of PPE, but in terms of hospital capacity.
- It’s about our behaviors and cold weather
- Continued isolation is hard. It gets very difficult in northern climates. Asking people to be separated from their families takes a toll.
- Over the 9 months since we’ve been looking at this, the science has been continuing to evolve around the knowledge we get
- The science hasn’t changed regarding quarantining. If you were exposed to COVID, over the next 14 days the chance of you developing COVID-19 and being contagious to others, the majority fell within those 14 days.
- What we do know now is the longer you get out from those days when you’re contagious to further out, it becomes less.
- the longer you would quarantine, the lower the chance of you spreading it to someone.
- But what we found is, your chance of spreading it after ten days is even less
- And it can be if you’re tested as low as seven [days]
- A 14 day quarantine is the best thing to do. But the science has been refined enough where we can say, if we can get more people who were exposed, who felt like they were exposed, if we can get more people to quarantine for 10 days even, that would have an impact on the spread of the virus
- Minnesota will make sure that we’re in line with the CDC recommendations
- Keep wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick, getting tested if you think you need to
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- In the U.S., we’re now seeing 200,000 cases of COVID nearly every day
- Around the world that number is 500,000
- The death rate in the U.S. is 1,000 and occasionally 2,000 a day
- The U.S. is now at 282,000 total deaths
- In MN, 5,296 cases reported today
- More than 17,200 Minnesotans confirmed with COVID just in the last three days
- We’re at a new total of 356,152 cases in MN
- We’re on a pace to hit 200,000 total cases within the next week
- Deaths in MN — another 21 today.
- On Sunday, MN had 64 deaths reported
- On Saturday, MN had 75 deaths reported
- Improvements over the last couple of weeks thanks to some of the statewide restrictions, however, we need to point out that it’s in the next few days that we anticipate seeing the effects of Thanksgiving
- So while we’re happy that the rates have moderated in the last couple of weeks, we have our eyes on what may be emerging in the next couple of weeks.
- Quarantine Guidance Update:
- quarantine — (protecting people from potential exposure before there is a known positive) when a person has a known exposure with a high-risk contact with someone who has been found to be infectious. But that person has not themselves shown any symptoms, nor have they tested positive
- isolation — a person goes into isolation when they have tested positive for COVID-19
- For months, the CDC recommendation was a quarantine period of 14 full days for people exposed.
- We know that a person can develop COVID-19 for as many as 14 days after first exposure (that’s how long the virus can linger in the body before taking hold to a level where it can trigger symptoms or a positive test result)
- That full 14 days remains the CDC recommendation for the greatest possible protection
- Having reviewed the data and modeled the implications of the degree to which infection changes over the course of that 14 days, the CDC has now given states the option of shortening quarantine guidance over specific conditions
- The risk of a person becoming infected while they’re in quarantine is highest in the earliest days of their quarantine. And their risk of being infectious tends to wane as that 14 days goes by
- The hope here is that by shortening the quarantine period, trimming off the last few days when the risk is significantly lower, that will make people more likely to actually follow the guidance to the end.
- And that can also mean fewer quarantine-related disruptions to people’s lives
- This doesn’t come risk-free… the risk does go down toward the end of that 14 days period, but it is still a small risk
- So theoretically, a person coming off quarantine early does pose some risk for transmission but people can knock down that remaining risk by continuing to do a few key things:
- Monitor your symptoms through the full 14 days. That’s very important.
- Even minor symptoms should be taken seriously. Even a headache. If you’re coming off a 14-day quarantine, please be vigilant in watching for symptoms. Even if you have something mild, consider that a potential warning sign that you might have COVID-19 and remain in quarantine and get tested
- Minnesota could have decided to just stick with the full 14 day quarantine, but we chose to adopt the new guidance through careful review.
MDH Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Kris Ehresmann
- There are certain conditions where people can consider going with the shorter quarantine
- If you had a high-risk exposure and need to go into quarantine, shortening the quarantine period from 14 to 10 days after your last exposure can be considered if:
- You have not tested positive for COVID-19
- You don’t have any symptoms
- And you will continue to watch for possible symptoms through Day 14
- You also need to continue to mask, maintain at least 6-feet social distance, and follow other prevention guidance
- And you are committed to isolating and getting tested if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19
- There are scenarios where shortening the quarantine is not recommended:
- If you have a household exposure, don’t shorten the quarantine (it’s difficult for household members to quarantine separately from other household members)
- If you’re in a congregate living situation, like a long-term care facility, correctional facility, a homeless shelter, or another situation where you’ve living with other people
- Or if you’re someone who works in those settings, we don’t recommend shortening the quarantine
- Guidance for health care workers is that they don’t shorten the quarantine, but we’re continuing to have discussions about this because we know staffing is an issue
- We encourage people in health care settings to look at our website for guidance if they’re having staffing issues
- South Korea seems to be doing well with battling COVID because people are compliant with the policies
- When you hear the public health guidance, please be like South Korea and follow it
Additional notes from the briefing:
- A reporter asked the governor if he’s concerned about people being confused by the new quarantine guidance — the governor said the goal of changing this is to get increased compliance. He does worry that it will be confusing. But it comes down to a few things. Wear a mask in public. Wash your hands. Socially distance from people. And if you’re feeling like you’re ill, get a test and stay in self quarantine until you figure out where that’s at and then it may turn into isolation if you have it.
- Ehresmann said the MDH doesn’t have clear data as to how compliant people are regarding the current quarantine guidelines. She says that the MDH gets feedback all the time over how difficult it is to be quarantined. The goal is to increase compliance at the point where people are the most infectious.
- 14 days is best, but you can bring it down to 10 if you promise to monitor symptoms, wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands, and if you start to feel sick, isolate and get tested
- you can drop it down to 7 if you follow all the guidance and you’ve had a negative test
- Mask compliance in Minnesota is estimated at 72%, according to Governor Walz (although mask compliance isn’t as high when Minnesotans are socializing with family and friends). This is through a survey that was done in late September and early October.
- Walz said he’s spoken with several Midwestern Governors and key members of Congress, he said he’s feeling “relatively hopeful that the federal government is going to move a relief package that will make a difference.”
- Walz says MN will have to have a special session to deal with the emergency powers on Dec. 14.
- Walz says the state will try between now and next Monday to get a package done. Then they’ll look at next Monday of being the deadline for putting together a package in MN.
- Walz said it will be his hope to try and provide some guidance to businesses regarding mitigation efforts by the end of this week, that way they’ll have a week in advance to know what to expect.
- Guidance to businesses will depend on what sort of results we see in Minnesota. If we start to see deaths skyrocket, that will be one of the determining factors. This week will provide a lot of guidance to see what happened during Thanksgiving.
- The vaccine rollout is going to take months. It’s not going to happen when the first needle goes into an arm in a week or so. That’s just the beginning.
- Tomorrow there will be a more extensive presentation on the early stages of vaccine distribution and plans for the state of Minnesota. There will be a bipartisan legislative group answering questions on Tuesday of how the state is going to roll out the vaccine distribution — how we’re gonna vaccinate, who we’re going to vaccinate, what that will look like, and a preliminary timeline of how it will stretch over the next few months.