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New MDH guidelines: vaccinated long-term care residents can go on some outings without quarantine

The new guidance also includes updated recommendations for visits that take place at long-term care facilities.
Credit: KARE

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has released new guidance for vaccinated long-term care facility residents, allowing them to go on some outings without having to quarantine when they return. 

The change is effective immediately, MDH said in a Wednesday press release. The new guidance allows long-term care residents who are fully vaccinated to travel and go out for activities, visits and worship without having to quarantine afterwards. MDH also announced updated guidance for visits inside long-term care facilities. 

Under the new guidance, vaccinated residents may still need to quarantine if they spend 15 minutes or more within 24 hours "within 6 feet of someone who can spread COVID-19."  An MDH spokesperson later clarified that this refers to "a person who has COVID or who had a high risk exposure." 

In the release, MDH provided the following list of recommendations for long-term care residents on outings: 

  • "Residents who are fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine after non-medically necessary outings unless they spend 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period within 6 feet of someone who can spread COVID-19.
  • Residents who are fully vaccinated may gather indoors or outdoors with other people who are fully vaccinated.
  • Residents who are fully vaccinated can visit indoors or outdoors with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 infection.
  • If the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with the people they are visiting.
  • If a resident who is fully vaccinated chooses to attend a place of worship or other group event, or to shop or eat in public establishments, the resident should follow the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention. MDH strongly encourages attending places of worship or other group events only when the 14-day county percent positivity rate is below 5%."

MDH clarified that for residents who aren't vaccinated, the recommendation to quarantine is still in place -- even if the people they gather with are vaccinated. 

MDH also updated its guidelines for visits that take place at long-term care facilities:

  • "Residents should be able to have private visits.
  •  If a resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor while wearing a well-fitted face mask (if tolerated) and performing hand hygiene before and after.
  • While taking a person-centered approach, outdoor visitation is preferred even when the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, because outdoor visits generally pose a lower risk of spreading the disease. Visits should be held outdoors whenever feasible. 
  • Compassionate care visits, essential caregivers, and visits required under state and federal disability rights laws should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, or an outbreak.
  • Facilities in medium or high positivity counties are encouraged to offer testing to visitors as feasible. Visitors should also be encouraged to get vaccinated when they have the opportunity. While visitor testing and vaccination can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, neither testing nor vaccination should be required of visitors as a condition of visitation, nor should proof of such be requested.
  • Screening questions must now include whether the visitor has had close contact in the prior 14 days with someone who is infected with COVID-19 (regardless of whether the visitor is vaccinated). If the visitor answers yes, the visitor should not be allowed to enter."

MDH asked Minnesotans to "continue the forward momentum" by taking steps like masking, social distancing, staying home when sick, and getting tested. 

"We thank all those who have helped make this step possible by doing the little things that help minimize the spread of COVID-19," MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in the release.