Health officials remind hospitals that shelter residents qualify for COVID-19 tests

Health officials are concerned about outbreaks in congregate living facilities.
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coronavirus test, covid-19

The Minnesota Department of Health is reminding hospitals that residents of homeless or domestic violence shelters are eligible under its guidelines for COVID-19 testing.

The department has for a while now limited tests at its Public Health Lab to the hospitalized, healthcare workers, and those in "congregate living settings" due to the widespread shortage of testing supplies.

Congregate living situations can comprise anything from nursing homes and memory care facilities to homeless shelters, domestic abuse sanctuaries, and prisons and jails.

But on Tuesday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that she has received concerns that some Minnesota ERs and hospitals "might be defining more narrowly" the term "congregate living situations" so that it only offers testing to those from nursing homes.

"Homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters need to be included in that definition so that people in those situations are prioritized for testing," she said, "and we want to make sure workers in these situations are prioritized for testing."

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There have now been 39 confirmed outbreaks (one or more cases) in congregate living situations in Minnesota, the mitigation of which is a top priority for health officials given the potential ramifications if the virus were to spread within such confined spaces.

The majority of those congregate facilities are long-term care homes, though Minnesota did confirm its first cases in prisons on Monday, at the MCF-Red Wing juvenile facility, and MCF-Moose Lake.

There have been no confirmed cases in shelters announced so far.

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