Minnesota lowers some quarantine recommendations to 10 or 7 days

Minnesotans who are exposed to COVID-19 can shorten their quarantine period from two weeks to 10 or seven days in some cases, state officials said Monday.

The Minnesota Department of Health adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The CDC made the change last week.

Minnesota health officials said they hoped the change would allow more people to follow the guidelines and stay home. While they don't have data on compliance, state officials said they often hear feedback that people are unable to follow the full two-week quarantine.

"It has been a challenge, so our goal is to increase compliance at the point when people are most infectious," said Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota's infectious disease director.

The two-week period can be shortened to seven days if a person gets a negative test, or 10 days without a test and without symptoms. But health care workers, congregate care facility workers, and people who are exposed the virus within their own home must continue to wait 14 days.

Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged that he worried people would be confused by the complicated new guidance, and said the state would launch a public relations campaign aimed at education.

"Aren’t you worried this is going to be confusion? Yes I do worry a little bit," Walz told reporters Monday. "The science has not changed around this (that 14 days is safest). We’re changing some of this for social compliance reasons."

An employer can force an employee back to work after seven or 10 days -- even if the employee prefers to wait the full 14 days. But if the worker gets sick or wants to get tested, the employer must honor that, Ehresmann said.

Below is the new guidance:

10-day quarantine if:

  • You have not tested positive for COVID-19, you don’t have symptoms, and you will continue to watch out for possible symptoms through day 14.
  • You will continue to mask, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, and follow other prevention guidance.
  • You will isolate and get tested as soon as possible if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19.

7-day quarantine if:

  • You meet all of the conditions of the 10-day quarantine.
  • You test negative for COVID-19 using a PCR test at least five days after the start of the quarantine period.
  • You continue to self-monitor for symptoms, mask and socially distance.

During the pandemic, the recommended quarantine period has been 14 days from both state and federal officials. Evidence shows that a person can develop a COVID-19 infection as many as 14 days after being exposed.

“Evidence indicates the risk of a person becoming infected and passing along that infection is highest in the early days of the quarantine, and much lower in the last few days of the 14-day period,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “CDC determined there is a public health benefit to offering shorter quarantine options that boost compliance and do not significantly increase risk. After reviewing the available information, we agreed with that conclusion and adopted their new guidance.”

Some Minnesotans with COVID-19 exposures are still asked to quarantine for the full 14 days if their exposure comes from their household, if they live in a congregate living situation or if they work in health care, corrections or shelter settings.

14-day quarantine if:

  • You have a household exposure. This is because it is difficult for household members to quarantine separately and household exposures have a particularly high risk of transmission.
  • You are in a congregate living situation, including a long-term care facility, correctional facility, homeless shelter or other setting. In these settings, it can be very difficult for people to quarantine individually and there is higher risk of exposing multiple people, including those at high-risk of severe disease.
  • You work in health care settings, correctional facilities or shelters. The updated state guidance has specific language for health care workers. Because health care workers provide care for the most vulnerable and those most at risk for severe complications from COVID-19, they should be excluded for 14 days from working in health care setting. If a facility is experiencing a staffing shortage, the facility may ask the health care worker to return prior to the end of their 14-day quarantine. In such a situation, health care workers returning to work should be proactively tested and monitored as outlined in the MDH COVID-19 Recommendations for Health Care Workers (PDF).