CoVID-19 Information (Updated 12/4/20)

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Frequently Asked Questions

The problem is that because this virus is “novel”, so much is unknown.  We know a lot about viruses like measles, chickenpox, mumps, etc., where we have developed vaccines that cause our bodies to produce antibodies which give us life-long immunity.  There are other viruses (including the common coronavirus, otherwise known as a “cold”) which mutate so rapidly so that prior infection does not give us much protection going forward.  And in some cases, even with chickenpox or hepatitis vaccines, our bodies produce some antibodies but not enough to provide immunity.  So this raises several questions about COVID-19:

  • What is the level of antibody required for protective immunity?  Just because you test positive for antibodies, do you have enough antibodies to protect yourself?
  • How quickly is the virus mutating?  Right now we know there are at least 30 different strains of COVID-19.  Are the antibody tests looking for a specific protein in the virus?  Is that protein the same in all strains?  Just because I test positive for one strain, does that mean that my antibodies will still recognize and attack another strain or could I become re-infected by a different strain?
  • Assuming that antibodies provide immunity, how long does it last?  For some infections, our bodies only produce antibodies for a short period of time, and then our immunity starts to go away.
  • Do the antibody tests even work?  The U.K. spent $20 million to purchase antibody testing kits only to find out they don’t work.  The FDA has not validated most of these tests in an effort to get them out to the public for use.  Unfortunately, this means that we don’t know which tests to rely on.

There is work being done to investigate which antibody tests might be the most accurate and how we could possibly ramp up testing.  This is part of the work being done by the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.

There was recent media coverage regarding the City of Detroit’s police department partnering with Abbott Labs (a very reputable company) to use a rapid testing kit which gives results within 15 minutes. Abbott has advertised near-100% accuracy, however the caveat is that the accuracy is only true if you test someone at least 2 weeks after they first developed symptoms.  If you test right away (as soon as or before symptoms develop), they have a false-negative rate of at least 15%.  So to rely on these tests to rule-in or rule-out exposures in order to avoid a quarantine is probably not wise.  And of course the questions from above still apply….

The best protection right now is to wear a facemask at all times and practice social distancing everywhere, even at work.

Check out this perspective on antibody tests from a HealthPartners medical official, as well as our current recommendations for risk stratification and management following an exposure.

This is not always black-and-white and is likely to change over time. 

The CDC currently considers full PPE (including gown, gloves, eye protection, and N-95 mask or respirator) to be protective and this would not be considered an exposure regardless of the extent of contact with the individual.

Review the “First responder risk assessment and management recommendations” document for our current recommendations regarding risk-stratification of other possible exposures, and recommendations for monitoring and/or quarantine.  These are simply guidelines, so please verify with your HR department or occupational medicine clinic for your agency’s specific recommendations.

If appropriate PPE was utilized and you are asymptomatic, first responders may continue to work after an exposure and continue to use the recommended PPE.

Review the document on this page titled “First responder risk assessment and management recommendations” for stratification of the exposure risk.

If COVID-19 related symptoms develop, first responders should contact the nurse triage line (phone number in this document) and pursue testing at one of our drive up clinics or a respiratory clinic and may return to work based on the following:

  • Symptoms have been resolved for at least 3 days (fever, cough, sore throat).
  • It has been at least 7 days since the onset of symptoms.

Determining “workability” is generally outside of the duties of the EMS medical director.  This typically falls to your agency’s human resources department and occupational medicine clinic.  You can contact the nurse line or your clinic for advice, but generally what is happening right now if you have a family member at home that tests positive or have traveled to a level 3 country in the last 2 weeks (nobody is traveling anymore so this is obsolete), you should isolate and quarantine at home for 14 days.

If you are wearing a mask to protect others from your respiratory droplets, then yes (until it is visibly soiled).

A simple surgical mask can be re-used for an entire shift as long as it is not involved in an aerosol-generating procedure or visibly contaminated.

An N-95 mask can be re-used unless it becomes visibly soiled, damaged, or contaminated.  Many people are wearing a surgical mask over the N-95 to further protect it.

MN Department of Health CoVID-19 Hotline:

Health questions:
651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Schools and child care questions:
651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

-Or- they should be instructed to call the care line for their clinic or insurance company, as most healthcare systems are prepared to handle these calls.

Patient handout: click here

Not if you suspect COVID-19 infection.  Document that you were unable to obtain signatures due to the current pandemic, as well as the key points of any conversation you had which are typically covered by the signature.

The medical definition of a fever is anything 100.4 or higher.  That said, individuals should contact the nurse line or their occupational medicine clinic for any temperature greater than 100.0.

No, not at this time.  There are case reports of GI symptoms associated with CoVID-19, but we are not currently recommending that isolated GI symptoms be considered high-risk.

Law Enforcement Guidance