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Covid notes: testing, vaccines and masks

Find out how to get tested locally, symptoms to watch out for and more in this roundup of Covid-19 information provided by Pine Knot News staff and Minnesota Public Radio.

Covid symptoms, local testing

Anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 or who has been exposed to someone they think may have the disease is encouraged to seek testing.

Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after you are exposed to the virus that causes Covid.

Tests are readily available now. If the person does not have symptoms, it is best to get tested between 5 and 7 days after  a high-risk situation. If the  test is negative, they should get tested again around 12 days after the event. It can take 2-14 days for Covid to develop, so even if someone tests negative once, they could still develop Covid later and spread it unknowingly.

Slowing the spread of the coronavirus is not rocket science. Wear a mask in any public space, and make sure it’s clean, well-fitting, and placed over both nose and mouth. Stay 6 feet away from others. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, but especially before eating or drinking or after being outside your home. Don’t gather in large groups, or even small groups outside immediate family. Keep interactions to 15 minutes or less as much as possible.

Carlton County testing sites include CMH Raiter Clinic, Min No Aya Win Human Services Center, MedExpress Urgent Care in Cloquet (they offer an antigen test with a 15-minute turnaround time), Gateway Family Clinic in Moose Lake and Cromwell Medical Clinic.

Almost all tests in the Carlton County area require an appointment in advance, but that is usually as simple as going online to make an appointment or calling the clinic and answering a few questions.

There are also more innovative options available courtesy of the state and federal government:

-Free saliva testing at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center is now available seven days a week inside entrances across from the harbor. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Register in advance at mncovidtestingappt.as.me/schedule.php.

-The University of Wisconsin-Superior is hosting a rapid results testing site that can provide results in as little as 15 minute from 2-6 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Mertz Mortorelli Gym in the Marcovich Wellness Center. Registration is required and can be done at doineedacovid19test.com.

-All Minnesotans can now request a free, at-home saliva testing kit for Covid-19. Order your test online at https://learn.vaulthealth.com/state-of-minnesota; it takes about a week for delivery.

Movement on vaccine

Even as they brace for another wave of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths originating from Thanksgiving gatherings, state public health authorities are laying the groundwork to distribute vaccines as soon as they’re available.

Officials are weighing a three-phase rollout in Minnesota, probably starting with health care professionals and others likely to encounter the coronavirus. A second phase will focus on the most vulnerable, and finally widen out to the general public.

“In Phase 3, vaccine will be available in plentiful supply, and so we will look at how we will routinely distribute Covid-19 vaccine — and that will be a wonderful time,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said this week.

Federal vaccine approvals could start as soon as next week, she said, adding that the state will need about a week more to prepare distribution of vaccines.

A federal advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Tuesday to recommend who should get vaccines first once one is authorized for use.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, along with representatives from federal science agencies and the health care industry, voted during an emergency meeting online to recommend that the first vaccines should go to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living.

Health workers spread thin

State health systems are straining to staff hospital beds as Covid-19 cases grow and doctors, nurses and other care workers struggle to cope with illness among their own families and colleagues.

State officials for weeks have been raising concerns that health care workers are being sidelined by Covid-19, either by illness or exposure in their communities, or else having to care for loved ones.

On Tuesday the state reported 56 health care operations in the state have “staffing support needs.”

More of the same

Officials continue to plead with Minnesotans to wear masks in public gathering spaces, socially distance, stay home if you don’t feel well and otherwise stay vigilant against the spread of Covid-19.

On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz said he’ll likely call on Minnesotans to not travel or gather for Christmas.

“I think the guidance around Thanksgiving is going to be very similar around Christmas,” he said, adding there was “little reason” to expect a change in the trajectory of the virus in the next four weeks.