Person with COVID-19 had contact with staff involved in Minnesota graduation ceremony

A health official said the ceremony was conducted against health guidance.
Author:
Publish date:

A graduation ceremony that took place in Minnesota went against the state's guidance for safety during the novel coronavirus pandemic, and one person involved with set-up of the ceremony unknowingly had COVID-19. 

"This week we've seen an example of a positive case associated with a set-up for a ceremony. An individual helping to set up was in close contact with several other staff members over the course of a few hours to prepare a stage where a graduation ceremony was to take place," said Kris Ehresmann, epidemiologist and director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). 

Ehresmann didn't say disclose where the graduation took place, nor did she divulge if the ceremony was for senior students or younger grades. 

"While the ill individual did not participate in the ceremony itself, the two individuals with whom they had contact did facilitate the ceremony, and the ceremony did involve individuals walking up to receive their diploma," she continued. 

"Those two did not know they had been exposed and weren't in quarantine," Ehresmann added. "This is an example of another risk of transmission to a much larger population if procedures are not followed."

It is yet to be determined if the infected person transmitted the disease to anyone else, and if so, how far its since spread remains unknown. MDH officials say they are assessing the situation and doing follow-up work. 

The MDH and Gov. Tim Walz have made clear that schools will have to get creative to properly celebrate the graduating Class of 2020 since gatherings of more than 10 people are banned under the Stay Safe MN order. 

"The safest way to observe graduation is for everyone to stay home. Indoor graduations and ceremonies held in outside stadiums and football fields of any size are not considered safe and are not permitted," Ehresmann said. 

"Graduations are emotional events that can come with unpredictable social behavior. As we have seen with attempted in-person ceremonies, even the best laid plans cannot account for the human reaction of students rushing to hug classmates who they have not seen in a long time."

Department of Education guidance for graduation

If your school is considering hosting a graduation/commencement ceremony or other celebration outside of the home (e.g., car parade, parking lot ceremony) please:

  • Remember the safest option right now is for everyone to stay home. 
  • Consider whether having an event encourages people in high-risk groups (particularly older adults and people with underlying health conditions) or ill individuals to come out rather than stay at home. People may come out because of their desire to celebrate this significant milestone and not wanting to be “left out.” 
  • Consider what accommodations need to be made to ensure equitable participation (e.g., students and families without access to a vehicle).

If your school decides to host a graduation/commencement ceremony or other celebration outside of the home (e.g., car parade, parking lot ceremony):  Each household should be in a separate car; carpooling does not comply with social distancing. 

  • Make it clear that people with COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, etc.) should not attend – no matter what. 
  • Attendees should remain in their individual cars. 
  • If attendees are in cars with the windows up for the entirety of the ceremony, cars may park immediately adjacent to one another. 
  • If attendees are in cars with windows down, cars should park 6 feet apart. 
  • Provide clear messaging that individuals may not walk to the ceremony or participate outside of vehicles. 
  • Create a traffic flow plan for how vehicles enter and exit the event. 
  • Make the event brief. 
  • Do not serve food or beverages at the event. 
  • There should not be passing of objects or physical contact between households. 
  • Graduation caps should not be thrown in the air outside as this may encourage attendees to leave the vehicle. 
  • Do not provide public or portable bathrooms; this creates a risk of transmission. 
  • Limit the number of speakers to the smallest number possible and ensure they avoid close contact (e.g., within 6 feet) of others. Speakers should not congregate, and should return to their vehicles following presentations. 
  • Whenever possible, use individual microphones if multiple speakers will participate. If a microphone must be shared, consider cleaning between speakers or leaving it untouched on a stand. 
  • Partner with local public safety officials.

If your school decides to distribute materials (e.g., diplomas, cap and gown) via delivery or pick-up: 

  • Practice contactless delivery or pick-up whenever possible, with staff wearing cloth face coverings and gloves (work gloves are permissible). 
  • In curbside pick-up, social distancing guidelines apply. Individuals picking up materials should wear cloth face coverings and should not leave their car whenever possible. 
  • In delivery, items should be deposited outside an individual’s residence. 
  • Develop clear signage and communication between staff distributing and individuals receiving materials. 
  • If payment is required, contact-less payment should be used in every possible scenario; if money is exchanged, the participants must use gloves.

Next Up

PD Shimmers closeup

Man with Parkinson's lights up Plymouth with synchronized light show

"The best medicine I have for my disease is what I try to do with the light show," Mike Justak said.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.34.43 AM

Watch: Drunk squirrel in Minnesota captures the world's attention

The squirrel was immediately cut off after nearly tipping over.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.15.09 PM

Small town gym refusing to close facing lawsuit from attorney general

The gym is facing a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order to halt their operations.

credit card, payment

Money Gal Coaching: Bouncing back after living your best life

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.

flickr-mall-of-america-mitchell-hirsch-march-2019

When do stores open on Black Friday this year?

Many major retailers will be open Black Friday, some for extended hours.

police tape, crime scene

Man found dead outside home near Cass Lake

The man was reportedly shot outside the property.

Minnesota_Welcome_Sign_-_Minnesota_Welcomes_You_-_Taylors_Falls_(28269804891)

Gov. Walz announces $1M in grants to boost Minnesota tourism

The money will be used for marketing efforts to attract people to Minnesota's hard-hit tourist spots.

coronavirus, ICU

Nov. 25 COVID-19 update: 72 deaths ties Minnesota's single-day high

A COVID-19 update will not be provided on Thanksgiving Day.

Texa-Tonka

Revival to open its fourth Twin Cities location

The fried chicken and smoked meat maestros are moving to St. Louis Park.

Duluth and Case Recreation Center

St. Paul to open two extra temporary shelters for homeless people

Mayor Melvin Carter announced the new shelters will be opened in the event of excess demand.

Related

Classroom

4 added to list of MN schools with 5+ confirmed COVID-19 cases

There are now 11 schools identified by the state health department.

graduation-2038864_1280

Coronavirus: MN confirms ban on large-scale graduation ceremonies

It wants schools to offer virtual ceremonies, or parade-style options.

school, classroom, students

Coronavirus: 3 paths for students, teachers who develop symptoms

The guidance is available for all Minnesota families.

coronavirus

MN officials watching for child syndrome linked to COVID-19, but say it's 'rare'

Health experts in Minnesota are keeping an eye out for the rare syndrome.

Screen Shot 2020-09-22 at 8.22.07 AM

School near Duluth has 'high number' of people with COVID-19 symptoms

Wrenshall School District is moving to full distance learning.

graduation, pandemic

High school graduations: What schools can and can't do

Here's MDE's guidelines for in-person ceremonies