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MDH Updates Quarantine Recommendations for Health Care Workers

On Feb. 16, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released a new document COVID-19 Recommendations for Health Care Workers that reviews diagnostic testing of health care workers (HCW), management of HCW exposure to COVID-19, HCW return to work, guidance for ill HCW and travel recommendations for our staff. Additionally, within the guidance document, MDH cites several already existing documents that informed the creation of this resource.

Whether or not a healthcare worker has a high-risk exposure, HCWs should not work when sick even if they present with mild signs or symptoms. Of particular concern is the quarantine after exposure of both vaccinated and non-vaccinated HCWs. 

Quarantine After High-Risk Exposure
MDH recommends HCW with high-risk exposures participate in a voluntary quarantine for 14-days after the known exposure date. To decrease the length of time a HCW should quarantine, the staff member might consider temporarily moving into alternative accommodation, if available, to maintain distance from the ill household member. When home with an ill family member, the HCWs quarantine does not start until the last date of the family member’s / living partner’s isolation/quarantine date. For staffing, if the facility’s staffing contingency plan is implemented, and the facility is unable to maintain appropriate staffing levels after exhausting other options or interventions related to staffing as found in the organization’s contingency staffing plan, asymptomatic HCW who have high-risk exposures but who have NOT tested positive may be asked to return to work during the voluntary quarantine period. If the HCW returns to work during this time they are required to wear a medical-grade facemask for source control at all times.

Fully vaccinated healthcare workers do not have to quarantine outside of work if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. This does not apply to a work situation; the recommendation continues to be a voluntary 14-day quarantine from work after a vaccinated staff member experiences a high-risk exposure. A fully vaccinated staff member has both vaccine doses, two weeks has passed since the final vaccine dose, and is within 3 months following the final dose of the vaccine.

Quarantine and Non-essential Travel
MDH recommends that both vaccinated and unvaccinated staff who return from travel considered to be non-essential travel, quarantine for 14-days. They continue to cite the Protect Yourself & Others:COVID-19 Traveling document as the basis for the recommendation.

This document reviews the standards for bringing HCW back to work after experiencing a high-risk exposure when experiencing acute staffing shortages. This guidance includes a discussion of the varying types of high-risk exposure, the strategies for vaccinated verses unvaccinated staff and requirements for change in work when returning during the quarantine period.

Quarantine and isolation of healthcare workers continues to be a hot topic among long-term care providers. Barriers in staffing, vaccination, testing and other COVID-19 management requirements contribute to the complexity surrounding healthcare workers and recommendations during the pandemic.

If you have questions or would like to talk through organization specific examples, please contact Kari Everson – keverson@leadingagemn.org

Reference Documents:

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