COVID-19 Preparations

MHA key messages: COVID-19 preparations (Updated 3-16-20)

 Topline key messages for patients

We all have a role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

  • All Minnesotans are encouraged to limit time spent in locations that do not allow social distancing of six feet per person.
  • By making healthy choices and practicing social distancing, we each can help break the chain of transmission.


If you are concerned about your symptoms, call your health care provider.

  • Your provider will work with you to determine whether you should be screened for COVID-19.
  • We want to be sure you are receiving the right care in the right location. Based on your symptoms, you may not need to come to a hospital or clinic. Hospital care needs to be preserved for those who are acutely ill.
  • After a health care provider obtains a sample for COVID-19 testing, the sample is submitted to MDH or a private lab for testing. Test results can take several days due to the volume of samples being submitted. Minnesota is urging the federal government to increase testing capacity.
  • You may be asked to isolate at home.


Practice good hygiene habits to prevent illness.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough.


Hospitals are working to prepare for a surge of patients in a wider outbreak by focusing emergency preparedness on:

  • People – keeping the health care workforce healthy and safe with proper personal protective equipment and asking state and federal regulators to make it easy for them to keep coming to work even if schools close.
  • Equipment – making sure hospitals have all available ICU beds and ventilators.
  • Space – considering how to retrofit unused space or reconfigure space to accommodate more acutely ill patients. Temporarily using units that are possibly not used right now or designating areas for isolation.


Hospital capacity is dependent on the intensity, duration and severity of an outbreak. We need all Minnesotans to help flatten the curve.


General key messages

Minnesota hospitals/health systems are preparing to screen, identify potential patients and isolate and care for patients.

  • When there is a threat of a disease that could cause a surge of patients, each individual hospital increases its preparedness and coordination activities. Hospitals and health systems are working together to prepare for a surge of patients.
  • Hospitals and health systems are preparing to:
    • Handle patient questions at clinics
    • Provide hospitalization for those who require acute or ICU care, including people with underlying medical conditions
    • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect health care workers.


Our hospital(s) and health care providers are trained to manage infectious diseases including new infectious diseases like coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • Our current understanding of COVID-19 suggests that most people who become infected will not become seriously ill and will not need hospitalization. Those with serious illness may need hospital care, including respiratory support.


Patients who are concerned about symptoms should call their primary care clinics. Patients who are asked to come to the clinic can expect to see signs and to be asked if they have respiratory symptoms, are currently sick or have traveled internationally. Depending on symptoms, they may be isolated.


Our hospital and health care providers are working with each other, the Minnesota Department of Health and emergency preparedness officials.

  • Supporting the health and safety of communities demands the combined efforts of the public health system; front-line health care providers; and federal, state and local governments.


What health care providers need from the federal and state government:

  • We urge Congress to swiftly provide supplemental emergency funding directly and specifically to support the urgent preparedness and response needs of hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses treating this disease.
  • The Trump Administration and Congress need to press the private sector and vendors to produce enough PPEs, supplies and equipment that will be needed.
  • The state should work with providers to test patients for COVID-19 with a quicker turnaround of results. Ultimately, health care providers should be able to test close to the point of care.
  • We thank the state Legislature for working quickly provide supplemental funding to support public health and hospital and health system preparedness and response.


Our hospital, clinics and health care providers are trained and prepared for infectious diseases

  • Hospitals, clinics or other health care providers call the Minnesota Department of Health regarding patients who may be infected with COVID-19.
  • While awaiting test results, the ill person is isolated to prevent others from becoming ill.
  • If testing confirms a case of COVID-19, the available details and protective recommendations are be shared with the patient, people who have been in close contact with the ill person and the public as quickly as possible.
  • Minnesota hospitals and health systems will follow the CDC interim guidelines for health care professionals, which include screening patients for travel, evaluating patients, reporting patients under investigation (PUIs) to MDH, testing specimens and infection control.
  • Minnesota has a strong disease surveillance system. Finding cases quickly and responding to them effectively is key. That rapid response helps ensure that the ill person receives the care they need, and it lessens the chance of other people getting sick.
  • MHA and MDH are closely monitoring CDC guidelines for health care professionals and provide updates for Minnesota hospitals, health systems and other key community stakeholders via weekly COVID-19 calls.


Personal protective equipment (PPE) supply chain

  • MDH has increased supply chain monitoring to identify any trends in PPE shortages.
  • Hospitals should stay in close contact with their regional emergency coalition partners for help with PPE supply.
  • The Minnesota chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is forming a group to review strategies for conserving PPE in Minnesota.
  • MDH and Minnesota regional health care coalitions are encouraging hospitals and health systems to adhere to recommended scarce resource strategies to conserve current PPE stock.
    • Core strategies to be employed (in order of preference) in anticipation of a scarce resource situation include:
      • Prepare: Take actions pre-event to minimize resource scarcity (e.g., stockpiling of PPE)
      • Substitute: Use an essentially equivalent PPE for one that would usually be available
      • Adapt: Use devices, drugs or personnel that are not equivalent but that will provide sufficient care
      • Conserve: Use less of a resource by lowering dosage or changing utilization practices
      • Reuse: Reuse (after appropriate disinfection/sterilization) items that would normally be single-use items
      • Reallocate: Restrict or prioritize use of resources to those patients with a better prognosis or greater need


Transmission of COVID-19

  • 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)
    • Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects is possible, but is not the main way the virus spreads.
    • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
  • When does spread happen?
    • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
    • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
  • How efficiently does the virus spread?
    • How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. Another factor is whether the spread continues over multiple generations of people (if spread is sustained).
    • The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.
  • There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.
    • Patients should be cared for in airborne isolation or negative air flow rooms.
  • There is still more to be learned.


The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

  • CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators (personal protective device that is worn on the face or head and covers at least the nose and mouth) in the community. Most often, spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet).
  • CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, such as avoiding people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes or nose, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue. People who are sick should stay home and not go into crowded public places or visit people in hospitals. Workers who are sick should follow CDC guidelines and stay home when they are sick.
  • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • A surgical N95 (also referred as a medical respirator) is recommended only for use by health care personnel who need protection from both airborne and fluid hazards (e.g., splashes, sprays). These respirators are not used or needed outside of health care settings.