(KNSI) – The Minnesota Department of Health Wednesday says it is relaxing more visitor rules and allowing outings for residents in long-term care facilities.
According to the MDH, the new guidance will affect nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The Centers for Disease Control allows vaccinated residents to travel to church, visits, and activities in new guidance issued March 10th.
Fully vaccinated residents will not be required to quarantine after non-medically necessary outings unless they are with someone who can spread COVID-19 for longer than 15 minutes within a 24 hour period.
Someone who can spread COVID-19 is defined as “someone who is COVID-19 positive or who has had a COVID-19 high-risk exposure in the last 14 days,” says Lindsey Krueger, director of MDH’s Office of Health Facility Complaints.
They can also gather indoors or outdoors with others who are fully vaccinated and have close contact (including touch) with people they are visiting. Visiting indoors or outdoors with unvaccinated people from a single household at low risk for severe COVID-19 infection is also allowed.
Officials with the CDC say that if a resident goes out, they should still follow the core principles of infection mitigation, such as masking and social distancing. The MDH says going to a place of worship, or a group event should only be done when the 14-day county percent positivity rate is below five percent.
Unvaccinated residents who leave to gather with others may still be required to quarantine when they return.
As for visiting a facility, if the resident is fully vaccinated, they can have closer contact (including touch) with their person, but if they can tolerate a well-fitting face mask, they are asked to do so and sanitize their hands afterward.
Outdoor visitation is preferred even if a resident or visitor is fully vaccinated. MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm says that, in general, outdoor visits pose a lower risk of spreading COVID.
“While we’re still dealing with the ongoing effects of winter this week, as we get into the warmer months, outdoor visitation is going to continue to be preferred even when the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Malcolm said.
Essential caregivers, state or federally required visits for disabled residents, and compassionate care visits “should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, county positivity rate, or an outbreak.”
Screening questions must now include whether the visitor has had close contact in the prior 14 days with someone infected with COVID-19 (regardless of whether the visitor is vaccinated). If the visitor answers yes, the visitor should not be allowed to enter.
Visits should be held outdoors whenever feasible.
Facilities should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, except in a few circumstances when visitation should be limited due to a high risk of spreading COVID-19.
To see the entire guidance document, click here.
This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. to include clarifications and statements from MDH officials.
Dene Dryden contributed to this report.
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