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Tips from a COVID-19 Case Investigator

 By LINDSEY FENNER

Something to Hope For

I didn’t want to write about COVID this month. I’m sick of it, heart-sick. Since November, my coworkers and I have been overwhelmed, with more cases than we can possibly call, and knowing that it has become more likely that someone we’re trying to call is hospitalized or has died. And I know that, by now, all of us have been personally touched by COVID-19. There is so much grief to carry. And yet, with that grief, we now have something to hope for. Today, December 14, as I write this, the first vaccine has been administered to someone outside of a clinical trial in Minnesota. I was not expecting that I would cry, but I did. I’m at the back of the vaccine line, and there is a long way to go until enough people are vaccinated for herd immunity. But I know we are going to get through this. And here are some reasons why:

The vaccine: My thanks go to the scientists, the lab workers, and the vaccine trial participants. These vaccines are truly a testament of people working together for something bigger than themselves. I will share more information when we know more about widespread distribution in MN. But please start having the conversations now with loved ones about their plans for vaccination. It is estimated that at least 7 out of every 10 Minnesotans will need to be vaccinated in order to end this pandemic.

We know so much: COVID-19 has been the subject of thousands and thousands of scientific studies. There are still some uncertainties about reinfection and long-lasting immunity. But this virus is no longer an unknown to fear. We know how it spreads and we have more ways of treating it. We can fight this.

What we do matters: Every choice and sacrifice we have made to slow the spread has helped. Staying home, wearing a mask, not gathering indoors, distancing, handwashing: none of us do this perfectly every time. And we are going to have to keep on doing it for a while. But don’t EVER doubt that it doesn’t help.

More work needs to be done: It should be no surprise that the folks most harmed by this pandemic are indigenous and people of color, low wage workers, and people who are incarcerated. In Hennepin County, indigenous neighbors are 9 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 as white neighbors, and 5 times more likely to die from COVID-19. According to the New York Times, as of December 16, there have been at least 2,733 cases of coronavirus in meatpacking plants in MN, with over 700 cases at the JBS Pork production facility in Worthington. There have been at least 5,985 cases of coronavirus in prisons and correctional facilities in MN, with over 1,000 cases at Stillwater alone. We need to stand in solidarity, to fight for the lives of our neighbors and to fight for our collective futures.

You are not alone! If you need help:

Community Care Community Coordinators: COVID Community Coordinators are community organizations partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health. They can answer questions about: 

Where to get tested for COVID-19

Food support

Health care and mental health resources 

Housing and rental assistance

COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing

Employment resources

Community Coordinator Hotline Numbers (For more, visit https://covidcommunitycoordinators.web.health.state.mn.us/)

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES): 651-768-0000, Monday – Friday 8:30 am to 5pm; Saturday 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, Spanish

Cultural Wellness Center: 612-249-9528, Monday – Friday 24 hours; On call weekends; English

Division of Indian Work: 651-304-9986, Monday – Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm: English

WellShare International: 612-254-7308 (Somali/English), 651-318-0051 (Spanish), 763-312-6362 (Oromo), Monday – Friday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm; On call evenings/weekends: English, Oromo, Spanish, Somali

Hennepin County Essential Services: If you’re a Hennepin County resident who has recently tested positive for COVID-19 and needs help remaining in isolation, we can help. Call 612-348-3000 or email EssentialServices@hennepin.us. The line is staffed 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Help is available in different languages.

Lindsey lives in East Phillips and has been working a reassignment as a COVID-19 Case Investigator for local public health since May. She is tired but hopeful. Her opinions are her own.

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