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Wednesday October 20th 2021

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‘Tips from a Covid-19 Case Investigator’ Archives

COVID-19 Back to School

COVID-19 Back to School

By LINDSEY FENNER It’s September, which means kids are back in school! But with the Delta variant spreading in MN, and kids under 12 unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, sending your kids to school this year might feel really scary. Although the new variant is much more contagious, the good news is that all of the COVID-19 precautions we’re already using are still effective against the Delta variant. We have so many tools to use! But it is important to remember that there isn’t just one thing to do; we need to layer up these interventions to keep our kids healthy. Read your school’s COVID-19 plan. Ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand.Surround your kids under 12 with vaccinated adults. Every vaccinated person helps to weaken the chain of transmission, and protect unvaccinated folks.Get your kids over 12 vaccinated. Although they are less likely to get severely ill, they can still get sick, and they can certainly spread COVID-19 to vulnerable loved ones, and unvaccinated younger siblings.Reduce community risk outside of school. Preventing spread outside of school prevents spread inside of school. This might look like: wearing a mask in all indoor settings outside of the home, seeing a smaller group of friends, doing fewer extracurricular activities.Good ventilation is essential. If your school isn’t communicating with families about how they are improving ventilation in the classroom, ask about it!Get tested regularly: The CDC recommends students get tested at least weekly, even if they don’t have symptoms. Talk to your school nurse about what testing is available through the school. The State of MN offers FREE, at-home testing: https://learn.vaulthealth.com/state-of-minnesota/Masks are recommended in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Try to get the best-fitting, highest filtration mask your child can comfortably wear for long periods of time.Keep your child home from school [...]

Reflections From a Former COVID-19 Case Investigator

Reflections From a Former COVID-19 Case Investigator

By LINDSEY FENNER  After over a year working in public health as a pandemic responder, I am back doing my pre-pandemic work. And although this doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, it does mean this column is at an end. I started writing it because I wanted people to have something to hold onto within the swirl of pandemic uncertainty and anxiety. I realized very quickly that no matter what my job description was on paper, what I was really doing was struggling with people through uncertainty. My job was to listen, to talk through complicated realities that didn’t fit neatly into a box, to help people who were sick make decisions when there wasn’t a clear correct choice. And now, after my job is over, what is there to say about what we have all been through together?  We are all connected. Which is nothing new, but doing this work meant relearning that every single day. In my role doing case investigation/epidemiology we called people one by one, asking them questions about their individual actions. But in every individual conversation, we were really teasing out all of these threads of connection. How one thing led to another, led to this particular person I was talking to on the phone being infected. This is after all how infectious diseases work, and why this work is done by “public” health and not your personal healthcare provider.  And each individual conversation was so important, especially at the beginning when there was so much we didn’t know. Each person had a story. And these stories, as lived experiences, all matter. And parts of that story became data points on a graph. This shouldn’t be seen as something purely reductive or dehumanizing. These data points, made up of stories, collectively helped tell the policy makers what to do next.  We could have done better. Sometimes the wrong decision was made by people in power. Sometimes there was no good choice: no clear scientific [...]

How We Get to the End (because we’re not there yet)

TIPS FROM A COVID-19 CASE INVESTIGATOR By LINDSEY FENNER Now that COVID vaccines are much more easily available in Minnesota, we have reached what is perhaps the hardest part of this enormous vaccination task: reaching the folks who waited or haven’t quite made up their minds or still have questions. And as much information as any government public health official can send out in the world, YOU can make a difference by having conversations with loved ones about getting vaccinated. These conversations might be difficult. And it will likely take more than one conversation. But this is how we get to the end of the pandemic.  Some tips for having these difficult yet crucial discussions Listen with empathy and without judgement: These vaccines are new. There is so much information and misinformation about them, it can be overwhelming. It is understandable that people have questions or anxiety about getting their shot. Give folks space to talk it out. Ask open-ended questions: This helps keep the conversation going, and helps you understand what your friend or relative is concerned about. Share information and resources (but ask permission first): There are many good informational resources about the vaccine. Just try not to SPAM them with information!Help them find their reason why: People who get vaccinated do it for different reasons. You could share why you got vaccinated to help them think about it, or talk about what you both could do together once everyone is vaccinated.Remove barriers: Sometimes people just need a little logistical support, like help finding an appointment or vaccination event, transportation to the vaccination site, help with caregiving if they have side effects, or just someone familiar to accompany them at the appointment. We need  to acknowledge that there are so many structural reasons that have prevented people from getting vaccinated, like lack of access to healthcare, paid time off, or [...]