Health Services Memo

From Your School Nurse

COVID-19 in Our Area

COVID-19 Dashboard St. Louis County

MDH Weekly COVID-19 Report

By now most of us have known someone who has been tested for COVID-19 or been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. You'll likely be hearing more about "close contacts" and "contact tracing". These terms are part of the mitigation efforts used by Public Health when it comes to COVID-19 because it is in fact a communicable disease which means that it can easily spread from person to person.

All of the mitigation efforts in place are meant to avoid having close contact with another person. We continue to learn and do better in order to minimize any potential risks and sharing of this virus. During times of increased spread, we need to be extra diligent in our efforts.

Close contact is when spending time less than 6 feet from someone who has COVID-19 disease. The closer and longer you are with someone who has the disease, the bigger chance you have of getting it. It can matter if the person is coughing when you are close. People can have the disease without having signs of being sick. Close contact can mean being very near to people you live with who are infected; standing next to someone on a factory line who is infected, or eating lunch next to an infected co-worker. Contact is less when passing someone infected in a hallway at work. This would be considered casual contact.


COVID-19 is a nationally notifiable disease. When diagnosed or identified through laboratory or clinical criteria, COVID-19 cases are required to be reported, by healthcare providers and laboratories, to state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) health departments. When laboratories send positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 to health departments, many of these test results are received via electronic laboratory reports. Testing locations, such as pharmacies and community testing sites, are also required to report positive test results to the health department for follow-up. Health care providers from a variety of clinical settings, including K-12 schools and community-based settings, also complete case reports on symptomatic patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Health departments have primary responsibility for case investigation and contact tracing. Case investigation and contact tracing are core disease control measures employed by health department personnel for decades, and an important part of the COVID-19 response.

Case investigation is the process of working with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 to discuss their test result or diagnosis, assess their symptom history and health status, and provide instructions and support for self-isolation and symptom monitoring. This interaction is the first step to review the activity history of the person diagnosed with COVID-19, while infectious, and identify people (contacts) who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Contact tracing is the process of notifying people (contacts) of their potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, provide information about the virus, and discuss their symptom history and other relevant health information. In addition, instructions for self-quarantine and monitoring for symptoms, and support and referrals to testing, clinical services, and other essential support services are provided, as indicated.

The case investigation and contact tracing processes help to prevent further transmission of disease by separating people who have (or may have) an infectious disease from people who do not. Prompt identification, voluntary self-quarantine, and monitoring of those contacts exposed to SARS-CoV-2 can effectively break the chain of transmission and prevent further spread of the virus in a community.

Classification of an individual as a close contact is based on many factors and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

COVID-19 Symptoms PSA

COVID-19 Reviewed

Know How it Spreads

  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

  • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.

    • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

    • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

Everyone should

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

  • It’s especially important to wash:

    • Before eating or preparing food

    • Before touching your face

    • After using the restroom

    • After leaving a public place

    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

    • After handling your mask

    • After changing a diaper

    • After caring for someone sick

    • After touching animals or pets

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.

  • The mask is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.

  • Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

    • Masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

  • Do NOT use a mask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.

  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The mask is not a substitute for social distancing.

Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.

  • Throw used tissues in the trash.

  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

  • Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.

Monitor Your Health Daily

  • Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Take your temperature if symptoms develop.

    • Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.

  • Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.

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Managing COVID-19 Symptoms at Home