By Anna Jauhola
Kittson County has more cases of COVID-19, including one employee at Kittson Healthcare in Hallock.
As of Monday, Oct. 12, Kittson County’s active COVID cases numbered at 5, with 17 total cases since April.
Public Health Director Cindy Urbaniak said Kittson Healthcare tested two people from the public and one employee at the facility last week whose tests came back positive.
“When that happens, we shift into what we call outbreak testing,” Urbaniak said of an employee testing positive for COVID. “The (Minnesota Department of Health) considers one case, whether it’s in a resident or a staff person to be an outbreak in a nursing home facility. So we’ve informed all residents and staff and family members that we’ve had this outbreak.”
Urbaniak said the employee was diligent about wearing personal protective equipment at all time, including a mask and eye protection.
“They have been very good about having a mask on every time they’re in the facility,” Urbaniak said.
This person was tested Monday, Sept. 28 and it came back negative, Urbaniak said. However, another test on Thursday, Oct. 1 came back positive. The positive staff member never presented any symptoms of COVID-19.
The facility had already been testing its staff over the previous two weeks, completing 89 tests on Monday, Oct. 5 alone.
Because one staff person tested positive, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires the facility begin testing nursing home residents as well. Urbaniak said Thursday, Oct. 8 was the first day testing residents, who had the right to refuse testing – 56 agreed to be tested and 10 chose not to be tested.
The employee who tested positive entered isolation the first weekend in October. The members of the public who tested positive were requested to isolate themselves.
Among the insanity that is COVID-19, there has been some confusion, to say the least. Urbaniak addressed a few questions the public has had including isolation versus quarantine, and how COVID cases are counted in each county.
For those who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have not tested positive, they are asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days. This is because they have not presented symptoms and symptoms can show up anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
For those who have tested positive for COVID-19, they are asked to isolate themselves, not only from the public but from any people they live with as well. This is meant to be for 10 days as they have likely been contagious or had symptoms for two to four days prior to testing positive.
For Kittson County, the public may have noticed a couple of times case numbers rose and then fell.
“We’ve had a couple of cases taken off because when Jeanna (Kujava) does her phone calls (for contact tracing) people still list their permanent address as Kittson County,” Urbaniak said. “But if their true physical address is Fargo, Moorhead, Grand Forks or wherever, Jeanna can do her questions and then she can change their address to where they are physically located.”
Usually, these cases are in reference to someone who is attending college, but still listed their home address as Kittson County.
“We’re going to keep seeing cases. I just think people need to keep this in the front of their minds that when we get complacent, that’s when we see issues,” Urbaniak said. “And they really need to pay attention to the symptoms of COVID.”
Urbaniak added that she and Kujava, who is also the county school nurse, are both happy to see the schools in the county continue to operate in person. There have been no cases within the schools.
However, as the cold and influenza seasons start, Urbaniak urges everyone to remain vigilant about continued hand hygiene and social distancing, but also wearing masks. Symptoms of COVID and influenza mirror one another, and also present with several other illnesses.
“It could be allergy related, or respiratory illness related, a sinus infection. It could be a variety of things instead of COVID,” Urbaniak said. “If the symptoms are something unusual to you, like if you never have headaches but all of a sudden you’re having headaches all day long, that might be a reason you come in and get tested (for COVID).”
Symptoms of COVID-19
COVID-19 symptoms can vary and the Centers for Disease Control occasionally adds more symptoms to its list. Currently the list of symptoms includes:
• Fever or chills
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Muscle or body aches
• New loss of taste or smell
• Sore throat
• Congestion or runny nose
• Nausea or vomiting
Continuing to wear masks, socially distance from others at least 6 feet and washing your hands are your best defenses against spreading COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses.