t goes without saying that COVID-19 has changed our community, and for many our daily lives. It has been six months since we first began to evaluate and respond to this public health pandemic. This disease has had economic, physical and mental health impacts on our community.
In Kanabec County we have lost seven members of our community because of this disease. These were our neighbors, family members and beloved friends. Balancing the health of a community in normal times can be challenging. Finding a balance during this pandemic has become even more challenging.
After six months, we are tired. We have a strong desire to put all of this behind us. Unfortunately, wishing it was behind us does not keep community spread from occurring. That same desire does not keep our schools learning models stable, it does not keep our neighbors from being hospitalized or dying and it does not keep our community transmission in check.
Physical Distancing and Mask Guidelines
As most Minnesotans are aware, face coverings while inside businesses, restaurants and other facilities are required. When gathering in outdoor spaces, with people outside your immediate household and where physical distancing, of at least six feet, cannot be practiced, wearing a mask is also suggested.
Almost daily, we take calls from concerned citizens about events or establishments that are not observing distancing and masking guidelines. Frankly, when we are gathered with people who look and feel well, we become complacent. Not all individuals with COVID-19 have signs or symptoms; some can spread the virus days before they develop symptoms and some never develop symptoms but can transmit the disease. Nevertheless, we must continue to be vigilant.
As we continue to study COVID-19 we are learning that masking, as recommended, reduces the disease spread. In Kanabec County, some may disagree based on our recent spike in cases; however, our local contact tracing indicates outbreaks in social settings where physical distancing and masking guidelines have not been followed to the degree necessary to prevent transmission.
Kanabec County Community Health continues to discuss learning models with our school partners, as well as representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health, to examine total case counts and places of exposure, looking for trends that would indicate community spread is at a level where schools would need to adjust their learning model to prevent further community spread. As of today, our rates are heading the wrong direction.
Two of our communities’ congregate care facilities had outbreaks in recent weeks. Each continues to work hard daily to keep residents and employees safe. They continue to screen workers by providing regular testing so any new cases can be identified as quickly as possible and keep residents and employees safe.
Many of our local businesses continue to follow proper masking and distancing guidelines, and we thank them for doing their part. We will continue to provide education and serve as a resource to businesses and employers as they continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19.
What has become clear is that slowing the spread of COVID-19 is up to everyone. What can you do?
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizers frequently.
Physically distance by staying six feet away from people not in your immediate household.
Wear a mask when in any indoor public space.
We all face daily challenges related to COVID-19 and through the next few months our response to this ever-changing pandemic will require our community to unite more than ever. Please continue to show each other compassion, patience, and kindness.
Guidelines for Quarantine and Isolation
If you become ill with any COVID-19 related symptoms:
Stay home until you are fever-free without medication for 24 hours; and
Have improved symptoms.
AND 10 days has passed – whichever is longer
If you test positive for COVID-19:
Isolate yourself in your home, away from other family members (if possible) for 10 days from the onset of symptoms or if you had no symptoms from the date of your test; and
Have improved symptoms; and
Have been fever free without medication for 24 hours
If you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 here are some guidelines to follow.
Stay home/self-quarantine for 14 days from the last date of exposure to the person who tested positive if you are symptom free.
If you become symptomatic, contact your provider to be tested for COVID-19;
Follow instructions for those testing positives for COVID-19.
*Please contact your primary care physician or Kanabec County Community Health for additional guidance.
Kathy Burski is the director of Kanabec County Community Health.