Skip to main content

Foster care firm tells employees they may have to work even with mild COVID-19

The memo sent to employees was shared online, and prompted angry responses.

A foster care company in Minnesota is under scrutiny after a memo to employees was shared online, revealing that workers may still be required to go to work even if they've tested positive for COVID-19 and have mild symptoms.

The memo was sent by North Branch-based Karcher Foster Services, which operates seven foster homes north of the Twin Cities, and describes the company's policies for employees in the time of COVID-19.

The excerpt that has attracted attention on social media says as follows: "Staff who test positive [for COVID-19] with no symptoms or minor symptoms will be required to work. A surgical mask will be required to be worn at all times while on shift."

Karcher Foster Services

This appears to fly in the face of national guidance on COVID-19, but in a statement to BMTN, Karcher said that the image above "lacks necessary context," saying that the sentence in question is part of a section called: "Quarantine Procedures for Locations with Multiple Ill Individuals."

"The protocols contained in that section apply in the worst case scenario, in which so many staff and clients are ill that there is no other viable option to ensure that our clients with disabilities receive the absolutely essential care and supports that they need," a spokesperson said.

"In this scenario, COVID-positive individuals would only interact with other COVID-positive individuals, whether staff or clients, meaning that no additional infection risk would be created. This worst-case scenario plan was carefully created with reference to and in compliance with DHS, MDH and CDC guidance."

Healthcare guidance suggests otherwise

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says that following the release of the memo, Karcher has been referred to its licensing staff "to gather more information and determine whether further action is needed."

MDH said the Karcher memo would "not be our recommended approach," saying it follows CDC guidelines when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 in a group home or congregate care setting.

Any worker in a group home setting in Minnesota is classed as "healthcare professional" (HCP) for the purposes of COVID-19 as they provide "close personal care" and work in congregate settings that could lead to rapid transmission.

The CDC guidance states that any HCP exhibiting mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19 should only return to work when at least 10 days have passed before symptoms first appear, at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without using fever-reducing medication, and symptoms have improved.

Sign up for our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

Even when they do return to work, MDH says staff should continue to wear procedure or surgical masks until "symptoms are completely resolved."

Those who have tested positive but who are asymptomatic should still stay off work for at least 10 days from the date their positive specimen was taken, and that this period would restart if they develop symptoms during this time.

However, Minnesota Department of Health guidelines do state that group home workers confirmed with COVID-19 but who are asymptomatic are allowed to return to work in the event of a staffing crisis. However, a staffing crisis can only be determined in consultation with the State Emergency Operations Center.

MDH's criteria for a staffing shortage in congregate care facilities is similar to the "worst-case scenario" described by Karcher Foster Services in that asymptomatic workers can return to work in a "non-direct resident care role" provided it has approval for the SEOC.

But this exception does not extend to anyone exhibiting "mild" symptoms of COVID-19, unlike what is stated in the Karcher policy.

In the event asymptomatic workers are required to provide direct care or supervision of group home residents, they should only do so for those who also have COVID-19, ideally in a separate setting.

They are also required to "practice diligent hand hygiene and wear a face shield and surgical face mask for source control at all times," including in non-resident care areas such as breakrooms, and must separate themselves from others if they have to remove their face mask.

The 'worst-case scenario' hasn't arrived

Karcher said that despite its preparations for the "worst-case scenario," it hasn't yet reached a staffing crisis that has required an employee with a positive COVID-19 test to return to work.

"We want to be clear that we have not yet and hope that we will never find ourselves in this worst-case scenario and that our community’s shared efforts to flatten the curve will continue to control the spread of COVID-19," the company said.

It went on to say that its COVID-19 preparedness plan has helped limit a widespread outbreak, and that thus far any staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 have only been allowed to return to work after the complete resolution of their symptoms or after a negative test.

"Even after these criteria are met, the returning staff member must take certain additional precautions in the workplace to make sure that other staff members and clients remain safe," the company added.

Next Up


Winter weather advisory issued as Saturday snow arrives

Not huge totals expected, but any snow will likely impact travel.


Report: Ryan Poles is Vikings' 'top choice' for general manager

Poles was one of two finalists revealed on Friday.

Payton Willis

Willis carries shorthanded Gophers to beat Rutgers

The senior scored a career-high 32 points to end a four-game losing streak.


Charges: St. Paul man had sexual contact 'multiple times' with 12-year-old girl

Marcus Steichen, 21, is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Charges: Mom killed infant son just weeks after getting him back from foster care

The 10-month-old died in her care in Brooklyn Park last April.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Arrests made following fentanyl bust in St. Cloud

Authorities searched two St. Cloud apartments Friday morning.

potatoes 2

Minnesota's 'frozen potato freeway' closure attracts plenty of comment

It was, let's face it, a very Minnesotan reason for a freeway closure.

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 9.07.54 AM

U of M fraternity raises money for chef's knee surgery

The GoFundMe has raised around $1,700 of its $5,000 goal.

unsplash restaurant cashier register COVID face mask - crop

7 restaurant, bar groups sue Minneapolis over dining vaccine mandate

"Minneapolis bars and restaurants are being used as pawns..." the lawsuit said.

Screen Shot 2022-01-22 at 7.47.53 AM

Woman fatally shot in St. Paul's North End neighborhood

It's the fourth homicide so far this year in St. Paul.


Wild flip the script, dominate Blackhawks

Ryan Hartman scored twice to earn the first game of a back-to-back.

Hopkins Basketball

Hopkins suffers rare loss to No. 1 ranked Sidwell Friends

The Royals held their own in a battle of the nation's best.


MCF Moose Lake

COVID-19 cases rise to 8 at Moose Lake prison

The cases continue to rise after three more positive tests.

Tim Walz

Gov. Walz tells Minnesotans: The time to beat COVID-19 is now

The governor is pleading with Minnesotans to play their part as the state enters its darkest hour in the battle against COVID-19.

Hospital bed

Gov. Walz: MN health plans to waive all cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment

The governor and health officials sent a letter asking health insurers to waive treatment costs.

Governor Tim Walz

Walz says Minnesota will report 56 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday

When confirmed, it will be the highest single-day death count so far.

Minnesota House employee confirmed to have COVID-19

The lawmaker in question hasn't been identified.