MDH Recommendations for Safe Family Gatherings

MN Department of Health

Information for Safe Family Gatherings

Plan ahead

Take steps to lower the risk of COVID-19

  • If you are unvaccinated, limit chances for contact with someone with COVID-19. Two weeks prior to your gathering, avoid people who do not live with you and settings where you cannot stay at least 6 feet away from others. Avoid bars, restaurants, or carpools where people do not consistently wear a mask.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask when you are inside places other than your home.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask at outdoor events where you cannot stay at least 6 feet away from others. See CDC: Improve How Your Mask Protects You (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/yourhealth/effective-masks.html).
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly and ask people coming into your home to do the same.
  • Stay at least 6 feet from others who live outside your household, whenever you can.

Create a safe setting

Create a safe setting for visitors

  • Before anyone enters your home, ask if they have had a fever, cough, body aches, fatigue, runny nose, or other symptoms of COVID-19. People with symptoms should stay home and away from all others. They should be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.
  • Before anyone enters your home, ask if they have recently been near someone with COVID-19. People who have spent time near a person with COVID-19 should stay home and away from others. They should be tested five to seven days after the contact.
  • Before bringing someone who needs long-term care into your home, get yourself and your household members tested for COVID-19.
  •  Before anyone enters your home, especially someone at-risk for more severe illness, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose completely.
  • Before anyone enters your car, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose completely. If people staying with you can also wear a mask, ask them to do so as well.
  • Before anyone enters your home, set up your house so people can stay 6 feet apart from others. See Indoor Air Considerations: COVID-19 (www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/indoorair.html). LONG – TERM CARE GUIDANCE FOR OUTINGS.
  •  For current recommendations about creating a safe space for visitors, see Protect Yourself & Others: COVID-19 (www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/prevention.html).

Contact the nursing home or assisted living-type facility

Nursing homes and assisted living-type facilities follow strict regulations and guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their buildings. Before taking someone out of nursing homes or assisted living-type facilities, make sure you understand the current guidelines.

Vaccination for COVID-19 is ongoing. We look forward to the day when more restrictions can be removed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why should I get vaccinated?

A. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the best ways to protect yourself and everyone around you, particularly those who are at increased risk for severe illness. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system, so it is ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Getting these shots will not only protect you from being infected; it will help us take a big step towards ending this pandemic.  

Q. Why is it important for long-term care staff and residents to receive the vaccination first?

A.  The average age of residents in long term care facilities is 85 and almost every one of them has an underlying health condition, and some have multiple chronic conditions. According to CDC data, the risk of mortality in this age group is 630 times higher than those 18-29 years old. While many industries can stay open or partially open with safety measures, long term care communities will not be able to return to normal until there is a vaccine.

Q. Can I visit my loved one through the window?

A. We welcome window visits, but ask that you call ahead to schedule the visit. This is to ensure we have staff available to assist your loved one to the window and provide use of an audio device if needed. Please do not open the windows during your visit to ensure the safety of our residents and staff.

We also encourage alternative means of communicating with residents such as phone calls, Facebook, Skype, etc. We have obtained additional equipment to meet the demands of these virtual visits.

Q. How will we receive the vaccine?

A. There are likely going to be two ways to receive the vaccine for your organization.  Residents will receive their vaccines through the federal pharmacy partnership program (PPP).  The PPP has a plan to offer multiple on-site clinics to facilitate the two doses needed for this vaccine. This infrastructure will be helpful in ensuring that long term care residents and staff are among the first to receive the vaccine.

Q. Is there are risk that I can get COVID-19 from the vaccination?

A. No, there is no risk of getting COVID-19 from the vaccination.  This vaccination contains no actual COVID-19 virus.  You may experience some side effects from the vaccine such as a sore arm, mild aches, or fever.  This is your immune system responding to the vaccine and is expected.   This does not mean you are getting sick with COVID-19.  We need the vaccine to trigger this immune response to produce the immunity you need against COVID-19.

Q. How do we know it’s safe since it was developed so quickly?

A. Scientists have worked on coronavirus research for decades starting with the original SARS outbreak and influenza.  Scientists only needed to isolate certain things about COVID-19 to begin creating a vaccine because we already know so much about the type of virus.  Due to the public health crisis created by the pandemic, many private, government and independent groups came together and cooperated on a vaccine.  This scale of cooperation is not typical, and the partnership created resources and information sharing to develop the vaccine faster.

Q. What are the side effects of the vaccine? Are there long-term effects?

A. There may be side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccination such as a sore arm, mild, generalized aches, headache, and fever.  These side effects are more common after the first injection and not as common after the second injection.  This vaccine will not make you sick with COVID-19; the side-effects are a result of your body’s immune system working to understand and create a response to the virus which is needed for your immunity.  The long-term effects are still being studied.  The first two months show no severe side effects.  As with all vaccinations, long-term effects are monitored for up to 10 years.

Q. Should / can I still get a flu shot?

A. It is important you still receive a flu shot.  However, it is not recommended to have a flu shot within one month of the COVID-19 vaccine.  If you have not already received your flu shot, speak with your supervisor or your doctor about the best plan for receiving flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine.

Q. Will I have to pay for it?

A. No, there will be no cost for residents or staff for the vaccine.

Q. How many shots will I need and when?

A. The vaccine includes two injections.  The second injection will either be given 21- or 28-days after the first injection.  The timeframe for the second injection depends upon the manufacturer and what is written in the emergency use authorization.  Your organization will make sure you have this information once vaccines are distributed and ready for administration.

Q. How long is the vaccine effective?

A. We don’t know.  Because the vaccine is new, the length of immunity is unknown.  There are some vaccines that do not require additional shots and there are other vaccines, such as the tetanus vaccine, that require periodic boosters.  The vaccine will continue to be studied over time and if additional boosters are needed that information will be released when it is known.

Q. Is it better to get natural immunity for COVID by getting the virus instead of the vaccine?

A. In many cases, the way to develop natural immunity to a pathogen is to become sick, have our immune systems respond, and then our immune system “remembers” the pathogen to keep us from getting sick again.  However, our immune systems cannot always “remember” the pathogen; or, it cannot always fight off the virus.  Right now, we don’t know if becoming sick with COVID-19 actually causes you to be immune to re-infection with the virus or not.  We believe the vaccination does provide immunity to the disease.  Additionally, there is no way to predict whether or not someone with COVID-19 will develop severe disease and suffer significant health complications or not; becoming sick is a risk and there is no way to predict the outcome of illness.  You will not become sick from the COVID-19 vaccine.

Q. What happens when long-term care residents are vaccinated? Can we begin to reopen our community?

A. Long term care facilities will not be able to return to normal until a vaccine is administered to most residents and staff. As soon as we start to successfully administer the vaccine in our communities, we hope can begin to discuss what’s next for our community and for long-term care communities across our state.  Until that time, please continue your infection prevention and control practices and follow the most current visitation guidance, even after you start vaccinations.

Q. Do you have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff?

A. We have sufficient personal protective equipment at this time. We continue to monitor our supplies.

Q. How are you keeping residents and staff safe?

A.  In addition to visitor restrictions, residents are social distancing, wearing masks when outside of their room. Any small group activities are being monitored. Staff are completing full vital signs daily on our residents. Temperature checks and respiratory assessments are repeated on a later shift.

All staff are being screened before coming into work and are required to wear face masks and eye protection in our communities. We have provided staff with additional face masks to wear while off duty.

We continue to routinely test facility staff according to CMS guidelines.  “Facility Staff” is broadly defined to include employees, consultants, contractors, volunteers, and caregivers who provide care and services to residents on behalf of the facility, and students in the facility’s nurse aide training programs or from affiliated academic institutions.  Our care center is in a level county positivity rate. The requirements outline routine testing depending on our county positivity rate:

  • Low: Monthly testing in counties with less than 5% positivity
  • Medium: Weekly testing in counties with 5-10% positivity
  • High: Bi-weekly testing in counties with greater than 10% positivity

We continue to follow the recommended guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and take all appropriate measures possible to protect the health and wellness of all who live and work here. We test symptomatic residents and staff as symptoms arise and perform entire-site testing during an outbreak (1 or more positive cases of either a resident or staff in our care center). Should a confirmed case come from any of these tests, we would promptly notify our residents, their families and staff.

Q. What if a resident tests positive?

A. In the event we have a confirmed positive case on our care campus, we would notify all residents, staff, and immediate family contacts. (Please insure we have updated contact information.)

As we monitor the care centers in MN surrounding us who have experienced caring for residents testing positive for Coronavirus and a loss of staff due to the outbreak, we continue to refine our plan to manage an active case in our care center.  In the event your loved one is diagnosed with COVID-19, we must transfer them to a segregated and quarantined unit to properly meet their care needs and protect other residents from further outbreak.  There are many issues to consider related to maintaining the segregated unit but the greatest concern is staffing, both within and outside of the segregated unit.  Our hope is that our staffing would remain constant, but care centers that have experienced an active case, see as much as a 20% loss of their nursing staff due to exposure or requested Leaves of Absence.  For that reason, it may be necessary to transfer the resident who tests positive to a nearby location or affiliate care center that has the necessary equipment and staff needed to care for COVID-19 patients.

In the event we do get a confirmed case in our care center, we are prepared to complete entire site testing. Residents and family will be consulted prior to any testing.

The care center will determine exposure risk and evaluate whether or not to discontinue communal dining and small group activities based off risk. Indoor visits are restricted for 14 days after any positive case of COVID-19 in Residents or Staff.

Q. What if a staff member tests positive?

A. In the event we have a confirmed positive case on our care campus, we would notify all residents, staff, and immediate family contacts. (Please insure we have updated contact information.)

Any staff member that tests positive would not be allowed to return to work for 10 days following the positive test and 72 hours from the last fever without using medications.

In the event we do get a confirmed case in our care center, we are prepared to complete entire site testing. Residents and family will be consulted prior to any testing.

The care center will determine exposure risk and evaluate whether or not to discontinue communal dining and small group activities based off risk. Indoor visits are restricted for 14 days after any positive case of COVID-19 in Residents or Staff.

Q. How can I visit my loved one?

A. Indoor visits are available for counties in the green and yellow positivitiy rate. The care center has gone 14 days since the last confirmed case of COVID-19.

Alternative opportunities for visits by appointment include,

-Virtual visits. — We encourage alternative means of communicating with residents such as phone calls, Facebook, Skype, etc. We have obtained additional equipment to meet the demands of these virtual visits.

-Open or closed window visits with social distancing and the use of PPE.

-Outdoor patio visits with social distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as required upon visitor successfully passing the visitor screening. All outdoor visits must be monitored by staff.

Q. Are you testing all residents and staff?

A. We continue to routinely test facility staff according to CMS guidelines.  “Facility Staff” is broadly defined to include employees, consultants, contractors, volunteers, and caregivers who provide care and services to residents on behalf of the facility, and students in the facility’s nurse aide training programs or from affiliated academic institutions.  Our care center is in a level county positivity rate. The requirements outline routine testing depending on our county positivity rate:

  • Low: Monthly testing in counties with less than 5% positivity
  • Medium: Weekly testing in counties with 5-10% positivity
  • High: Bi-weekly testing in counties with greater than 10% positivity

We continue to follow the recommended guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and take all appropriate measures possible to protect the health and wellness of all who live and work here. We test symptomatic residents and staff as symptoms arise and perform entire-site testing during an outbreak (1 or more positive cases of either a resident or staff in our care center). Should a confirmed case come from any of these tests, we would promptly notify our residents, their families and staff.

Q. Are the salons resuming?

A. The salons are resuming following the guidelines set out by the MDH and CDC. Beauticians will be screened prior to entering the building. They will wear a surgical mask and perform proper hand hygiene before and after contact with a resident. Clients will enter the salon one at a time. They will be required to wear masks throughout the entire appointment. If the care campus is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, the care center sill suspend salons services until there are no longer residents testing positive.

Employee Information on COVID-19 – Updated 08/26/2020

Feeling stressed? Worried about COVID-19? Family struggles getting harder? Here’s a free, confidential resource to call for a 20-minute coaching session about coping with the stresses of COVID-19:

Call 612-455-8656

or

email covidsupport@acp-mn.com

This hotline is funded by a LeadingAge MN Foundation grant through the Minnesota Department of Human Services and is being offered through October 2, 2020. No caller information will be shared with our organization or the funder. It’s free, confidential, and convenient!

Covid-19 Plan – Updated 07/15/2020

We at St. Francis Health Services of Morris take caring for your loved ones very seriously.

In response to coronavirus (COVID-19) we have aggressively implemented prevention and preparedness activities in all of our care centers (nursing homes, assisted livings, and group homes).

These interventions are intended to address the risk for our residents and employees from contracting and spreading the COVID-19.  We continue to follow guidelines provided to us by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and our local and state health agencies.

Visitor Restrictions:

  • Indoor person to person visits are not allowed unless considered under the Compassionate Visit criteria.  Alternative opportunities for visits by appointment include,
    • Virtual visits.
    • Open or closed window visits with social distancing.
    • Outdoor patio visits with social distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as required upon visitor successfully passing the visitor screening. All outdoor visits must be monitored by staff.
  • Volunteers.  In some cases, volunteers have been specially trained and specifically assigned screening or monitoring duties and have limited access to the care center with PPE use.
  • Non-essential health care providers (HCP).  In some cases, depending on ability to use telehealth methods and certain procedures required, HCP are allowed acces

Other Infection Control Practices:

  • Residents are monitored for signs and symptoms of respiratory infection.
    • Resident(s) presenting with respiratory symptoms consistent with CoVid-19 will be recommended for testing and quarantined while awaiting test results.
    • Dependent on outcomes, point prevalence testing (PPT) of the entire resident population and employees will implemented.
  • Residents are quarantined
    • upon admission,
    • if exposed to individuals with COVID-19 or those with exposure risk,
    • or upon return from medically emergent appointments out of the care center.  Some medically necessary appointments may not require quarantine upon re-entry to the care center.
  • Essential health care providers (HCP), who cannot use telehealth methods for treatment or are providing specific procedures will be allowed access using PPE and using specific ICP.
  • Essential HCP, Compassionate Criteria visits and employee entrance to the building will be limited to one location when possible.
  • Employees/contractors are screened upon entry and actively monitored while in the care center.
    • Any staff or contractor showing respiratory symptoms consistent with CoVid-19 will be asked to be tested and not allowed to enter the building and expected to quarantine at home while waiting for test results.
  • Social distancing is practiced throughout the building.
  • All Staff are required to wear PPE including a surgical masks and eye protection.    Additional PPE is required if a segregated unit is used or outbreak occurs.
  • Residents are required to wear masks while receiving cares or are out of their room, unless medically exempt.
  • All deliveries are left at the care center designated delivery door or in the vestibule where possible.
  • Cleaning protocols are met for COVID-19.

Status of COVID-19 Monitoring:

  • We continue to monitor for updates, changes, and recommendations on a daily basis from all legitimate sources.
  • We have a designated team that is reviewing and updating infection prevention practices and emergency preparedness activities.
  • We are in contact with our local and state health department and emergency preparedness contacts.
  • We will continue to update residents, families, and this website as new information becomes available.