MDH updated LTC guidance allows vaccinated residents to travel without quarantine

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New guidance for long-term care centers in Minnesota allows fully vaccinated residents to now travel out of their facilities and return without having to quarantine, and also allows in-person visits.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced the new guidance on Wednesday after reviewing an update from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week.

MDH said the updated guidance was an important step for the overall health of long-term care residents.

LTC advocate Emily Robillard said, "You lose that human connection, so I’m so happy that things are loosening up for people because we need each other."

On Wednesday, she said the change really matters.

"It really does. My grandpa passed away in December, and ever since then we haven’t had, I haven’t been able to give my grandma a hug," Robillard said.

Robillard, of Maple Plain, said her grandparents, Charles and Joann McDonald, who’ve lived in a long-term care facility in Wabasha, were married for 64 years. Charlie and Joanie, as they’re called, have been fixtures in the Wabasha community. So, Emily said there are a lot of people who want to comfort Joanie and honor Charlie.

After Charlie passed away this winter, Joanie got COVID-19, and was isolated for two weeks. If the family had a funeral, she’d have to isolate again.

"And she told us she couldn’t do that again," Robillard said.

Now, she won’t have to.

"Just joy, we have a pretty large family, and we are all very close," Robillard said. "We’ll be able to hug her, we’ll be able to see her and not through a plastic glass."

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcom said, "The bottom line is vaccinations and the slowing of COVID-19 infections are allowing us to safely expand visitation and allow indoor visits that bring families and residents together."

"Residents of long-term care facilities need the opportunity to see and spend time with their friends and loved ones as much as possible. As we continue to make progress in the effort to defeat COVID-19 it’s great to take steps like this to ensure residents have those connections and support," Malcolm said. "We thank all those who have helped make this step possible by doing the little things that help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Those little steps – masking, social distancing, staying home when sick and getting tested when appropriate – will help us get back quicker to all those things we have missed in the last year."

KSTP’s latest COVID-19 coverage

The updated guidance includes the following recommendations:

  • Residents who are fully vaccinated don’t 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.
  • Fully vaccinated residents may gather indoors or outdoors with others who are fully vaccinated.
  • Fully vaccinated residents can visit indoors or outdoors with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 infection.
  • Fully vaccinated residents 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%.
  • Unvaccinated residents who leave the building to gather with others may be required to quarantine when they return. At this time, quarantine recommendations remain unchanged for an unvaccinated resident, regardless of the vaccination status of those with whom they gather.

The updated guidance also includes the following recommendations for visits:

  • 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.
  • Vaccinations and the slowing of coronavirus infections are allowing us to safely expand visitation and allow indoor visits that bring families and residents together. Minnesotans can help continue the positive momentum by taking the right steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include masking up, keeping social distance, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate.

Click here to see the complete updated guidance.