The Minnesota Department of Health released an updated COVID-19 “decision tree” this week for schools, youth and child care programs.

The decision tree is guidance given by the Department of Health on the appropriate path to follow if a child, student or staff person is experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The symptoms have been separated by "more common" and "less common."

More common symptoms include fever greater or equal to 100.4 degrees; new-onset and/or worsening cough; difficulty breathing; and new loss of taste or smell. Less common symptoms include a sore throat; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; chills; muscle pain; excessive fatigue; new onset of severe headache; and new onset of nasal congestion or runny nose.

This guidance, which is now more detailed, must be followed by K-12 schools and child care programs. The decision tree was last updated in June.

If a person has one of the less-common symptoms, the symptom should be evaluated and it should be determined if the person is well enough to remain in school or the program. If they are well enough to attend, they can remain in school. If not, they should stay home or be sent home and consider evaluation from a health care provider and/or a COVID-19 test.

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New hand sanitizer stations have been installed around Hermantown Community Schools for the start of the new year. Schools across the state have added additional hand sanitizer stations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)
New hand sanitizer stations have been installed around Hermantown Community Schools for the start of the new year. Schools across the state have added additional hand sanitizer stations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)

If a person has one more common symptom or at least two less-common symptoms, they should stay home or be sent home, as well as their siblings and household contacts. The person would be asked to seek evaluation and/or a COVID-19 test from a health care provider. The person doesn’t seek medical attention, the person must stay at home in isolation for at least 10 days from the time symptoms start until symptoms improve and there is no fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications.

If the person does receive a COVID-19 test and it comes back negative or they receive an alternative diagnosis from a doctor, the person will have to wait 24 hours after symptoms improve before returning to school. In this scenario, siblings and household contacts may return to school.

A sticker is placed at the bottom of the stairs in the Hermantown Middle-High School to direct students. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)
A sticker is placed at the bottom of the stairs in the Hermantown Middle-High School to direct students. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)

There is also guidance for people who come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Close contact is a person who was within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes of someone who is infected. A close-contact person should stay home from all activities for at least 14 days since the last contact with the positive case and get tested five to seven days after the last contact. Even if the close-contact person receives a negative test, they need to complete 14 days of quarantine before returning to school or program.

Siblings and household contact would not need to stay home or quarantine unless the close-contact’s test comes back positive. If the test comes back positive the close-contact person would need to isolate at home for at least 10 days from the time symptoms start until symptoms improve and they don’t have a fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication. Siblings and household contacts would need to stay home and quarantine from all activities for at least 14 days.

This guidance is intended for K-12 schools and child care programs, but can be a resource for higher education institutions to use.