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Latest information about COVID-19 from DSD

The latest news about the pandemic and information from the Disability Services Division for our partners, providers and the people we serve. Click a headline below to read the full article.

Note: For updates related to agencywide DHS programs, visit the DHS homepage. It has information for providers, counties, tribal nations and members of the public as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be updated as changes happen at federal and state levels. To be notified when changes occur, you can sign up for COVID-19-specific DHS email notifications.

The governor granted the Minnesota Department of Human Services emergency temporary authority to change administrative and regulatory requirements for food assistance, home care, public health care and other state programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Find a complete list of temporary waivers and program modifications. We will describe many of these modifications further in DHS bulletins. If you have further questions, visit the Disability services COVID-19 FAQ webpage. We will update that page frequently, as we are able.

Guidance for PCA agencies and other agencies providing in-home support during the COVID-19 emergency

Guidance as of June 9, 2020

6/9/2020 3:02:27 PM

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Health (MDH) and are committed to protecting people who work and receive support in their homes and communities. This guidance provides important information and recommendations to minimize exposure and transmission of COVID-19 for personal care assistance (PCA) agencies and other providers of in-home services.

People who receive services may be at a higher risk for COVID-19 because many are older adults, have serious chronic medical conditions and/or live in a shared household.

Programs and services administered by DHS

DHS understands and shares the urgency agencies are experiencing about the effects of COVID-19 for workers and people who receive services. This guidance includes links to resources providers can share with workers and people who receive our services.

For up-to-date, accurate clinical information about COVID-19, visit the following websites:

Agencies should visit the MDH and CDC websites frequently because the information about COVID-19 changes on a daily basis.

Agencies should also watch DHS’ eList announcements for new guidance about DHS program administration. If you have not signed up to receive our eList announcements, visit the following websites:

Guidance

We recognize agencies that provide in-home services are encountering difficult questions and situations as they respond to COVID-19 and follow MDH and CDC recommendations. We acknowledge the vital role your workers have in meeting the needs of the people your agencies serve, and we understand that restricting contact and social distancing is not possible when providing a hands-on service. We created the following guidance to help agencies during the COVID-19 emergency.

Standard precautions

All workers should continue to practice standard precautions to help prevent transmission of infection as they perform their job duties. DHS created a refresher training about this topic for PCA workers and other similar workers: DHS training about standard precautions.

Workers and people who receive services should:

  • Practice diligent hand washing
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues and throw the tissues away
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Wear a facemask to protect others from transmission of the virus.

MDH created a comprehensive page with information about each of these topics: MDH guidance to protect yourself and your family.

Additionally, people who receive services should:

  • If possible, limit visitors to their home to only those who provide essential supportive services (e.g., PCA services, personal support, community health workers)
  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Stay at least six feet from other people and wear a mask, if possible, if it is necessary to go out in public
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Symptoms and early detection

According to the CDC, early detection of potentially infectious people is essential to prevent unnecessary exposure to people who receive services, workers and other household members.

Agencies should implement policies and procedures to be in contact with their workers and people who receive services to encourage them to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Agencies should also have a mechanism for workers and people who receive services to report this information to a person designated by the agency. Potential signs and symptoms vary depending on the population. Symptoms to monitor may include, but are not limited to:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever (temperature >100.0° Fahrenheit)
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • New confusion
  • Additional symptoms not attributed to another illness, including fever <100° F, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, runny nose, and fatigue.

Visit CDC COVID-19 for the most current information about symptoms.

If a person receiving services from your agency has symptoms of COVID-19, the person should contact their health care provider for guidance and potential testing. You should inform your worker(s) of the person’s potential illness so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to provide in-home services to the person. If a worker chooses to provide services to a person with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, they should use recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) if available, follow CDC guidelines for caring for someone who is sick and follow transmission-based precautions if possible.

Transmission-based precautions

Transmission-based precautions are precautions workers can take in addition to standard precautions when they work with people who have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. Workers following transmission-based precautions should wear PPE for all interactions that may involve contact with the person or potentially contaminated areas in the person’s environment. Workers generally put on PPE upon entering the room. The person receiving services should wear a mask, if tolerated, and follow the guidance to protect themselves and their family. See CDC infection control for detailed information about transmission-based precautions.

If your agency has access to PPE, the workers who use the PPE should:

  • Perform hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand sanitizer with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol
  • Put on PPE outside the home or soon as entering the home, and put on face protection first
  • Ensure six feet of distance from others in the home, both when putting PPE on and when providing services
  • Ideally, remove PPE outside the home and discard it in an external trash can
  • Remove face protection last
  • Perform hand hygiene between steps if hands become contaminated and immediately after discarding PPE.

For additional information, see CDC sequence for putting on PPE (PDF).

If any of your agency’s workers have been in contact with or provided in-home services to a person with a confirmed of suspected case of COVID-19, the worker should follow MDH COVID-19 recommendations for health care workers.

If any of your agency’s workers report they have symptoms of COVID-19, the worker should not work and should contact their health care provider for guidance and potential testing. If a worker has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, they should avoid providing services to people and follow CDC guidelines for what to do if you are sick.

Emergency back-up plans and preventing service interruptions

People who use PCA services and other in-home services may be reluctant to allow a worker into their home due to fear of exposure to infection. It is important to respect people’s preferences. Agencies should communicate with people who use services to determine their preferences and discuss back-up plans.

PCA agencies should review emergency back-up plans for the people they serve to plan for potential loss of workers, prevent service interruptions and address identified safety issues. The agency should assess the risk to the person if they are unable to receive services.

Agencies should work with people to use their informal supports and/or their emergency back-up plan when they lose services because of COVID-19 restrictions. Agencies also should reach out to the county, tribal nation or managed care organization (MCO) if the person has a care coordinator or is on a home and community-based services waiver. Counties, tribal nations and MCOs also have a role in developing and implementing emergency back-up plans.

People with complex needs who do not have informal supports could be the most affected during the COVID-19 emergency. If a person will not be able to maintain their health and safety without services, the agency is mandated to report this information to the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC) by calling 844-880-1574 or using MAARC online mandated reporter form.

The Senior LinkAge Line and Disability Hub MN are resources for COVID-19 information. They can help make connections with alternative services and options if a person’s agency or support network has changed or temporarily stopped providing services.

If a PCA provider agency terminates or suspends services to all people receiving services from their agency, item 8 of Minnesota Executive Order 20-55 (PDF) requires the provider to notify people receiving services and the county, tribal nation or MCO of the closure at least 72 hours before closing.

Additional information

MDH information

The MDH COVID-19 website includes information about:

  • The latest situation update
  • General information about COVID-19
  • How to protecting yourself and your family
  • Strategies to slow the spread
  • Materials and resources in multiple languages
  • Guidance about travel, health care, schools and child care.

CDC information

The CDC provides information for specific populations:

DHS information

The DHS COVID-19 website includes links to information for program administrators and for assistance with all programs and services, including food and nutrition, housing, income, health care, child care assistance and mental health crisis.

DHS also published a resource for COVID-19 testing for workers who do not have insurance coverage: Bulletin #20-21-03: DHS announces Medical Assistance for COVID-19 testing of uninsured individuals (PDF).

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