Testing for the coronavirus in Minnesota is being limited to hospitalized patients, healthcare workers and high-risk people who live in long-term care facilities. The decision to limit the people being tested was made Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) amid a nationwide shortage of kits and supplies.
Minnesotans are now left wondering what to do if they feel they're coming down with COVID-19. The answer is stark, yet simple: stay home and deal with it unless respiratory symptoms are too difficult to manage at home.
"Having a positive COVID test for someone who is not hospitalized, who has mild symptoms, is not a magic bullet," said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director with the MDH. "It doesn't inform the treatment because there is no treatment."
Again, Minnesotans are being told to manage symptoms at home unless symptoms are so severe – like having difficulty breathing – that a trip to the hospital is inevitable. Here's precisely what the MDH recommends:
"If you have symptoms of a respiratory disease (these include fever, coughing, muscle aches, sore throat, and headache), you should stay home for at least 7 days, and for 3 days with no fever and having seen an improvement of respiratory symptoms—whichever is longer. (Your fever should be gone for 3 days without using fever-reducing medicine.)
"For example, if you have a fever and coughing for 4 days, you need to stay home 3 more days with no fever for a total of 7 days. Or, if you have a fever and coughing for 5 days, you need to stay home 3 more days with no fever for a total of 8 days.
"If you know you were exposed to COVIDー19 and feel healthy, stay home for 14 days. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure."
Household contacts should stay out of circulation and limit their public activities for 14 days after a member of the household becomes ill.
In a nutshell, here's the deal:
- If you know you were exposed to COVID-19 but are still healthy, stay home for 14 days in case symptoms present.
- Sick person stays home for at least 7 days, or 72 hours after symptoms are gone.
- Sick person should stay as isolated as possible from household members.
- Others in the household should avoid public places for 14 days.
- Only go to a healthcare facility if symptoms can't be managed at home.
"Some people with COVID-19 have worsened during the second week of illness. If your symptoms worsen at any point, and you do need to go see a doctor, call ahead before going in," the MDH says.
Anyone with questions can also call the MDH hotline between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
People will determine how bad coronavirus gets in Minnesota
"We anticipate that the situation could get worse and we want to be prepared so that we can test hospitalized individuals. What happens next really depends to a large extent on the behavior of Minnesotans," Ehresmann said, noting that the state's mandatory closures should help limit the outbreak to a certain extent.
"Ultimately, it's Minnesotans themselves that need to comply with that and need to stay home if they're sick. That is what's going to make a difference in our ability to amp down the spread of COVID-19.
"So yes, definitely we are preparing to see an increase in the number of hospitalized patients of COVID. We expect that is very likely to happen. But really, Minnesotans have some control over this by the choices and the behaviors that they make, most important of which is to stay home if they're sick."
The latest data, which is up to 8 p.m. Monday, shows there are 60 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Minnesota, although health officials believe there are many more cases that have not been confirmed due to lack of testing kits.