COVID-19 Questions and Answers

Last updated November 18, 2021

Dear Shelter Provider and Congregate Living Community,

Thank you so much for your service and commitment during this time. To share information that expands upon existing MDH and CDC guidance for shelter providers, we are hosting a Q&A (question and answer) page that will be updated regularly based on what we are hearing from communities. Please note that this, like the MDH and CDC guidance, is interim guidance. We are attempting to move quickly and be responsive to urgent needs, but guidance may change as the situation evolves. If there are changes to questions we’ve already answered, we will provide updated answers here.

Answers are provided by the the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness (MICH), Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA).

If you need to report a COVID-19 case or have additional questions, you can email a member of the homeless and sheltered response team or email If the situation is urgent and it is a weekend, call the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.

This page is split into the following sections:

  • Mental Health
  • Variants
  • Quarantine and Isolation
  • Testing
  • Vaccines

Mental Health

Q: Are there any mental health resources for staff and clients/residents?

  • Minnesota Warmline provides peer to peer approach to mental health recovery, support, and wellness. Call are answered by a team of professionally trained Certified Peer Specialists. To talk with someone, call 651-288-0400 or 877-404-3190 or text “support” to 85511. This is an option if a person is not in a crisis at the moment but needs someone to talk to process feelings. If needed, they can transfer the individual to a crisis team for increased support.  
  • Crisis services is available 24/7 and the individual can speak with a team of professionals via phone or receive a face to face in person visit. Call **CRISIS (274747) from a cell phone or text “MN” to 741741. Most responses occur within 2 hours of the initial call. Landline numbers by county can be found here.  
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, crisis counseling resources to support people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call 800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.  
  • Minnesota Engagement on Shelter & Housing (MESH) and People’s Inc Training Institute each provide a variety of trainings that can support settings and individual staff.  


Q: What should we know about new and emerging variants?

Review CDC: What You Need to Know About Variants for just-in-time information.

Until the majority of the world is fully vaccinated, we expect to see new variants. To help us understand how concerning a variant really is, the CDC classifies variants by assessing available data, including:

  • Variant proportions at the national and regional levels
  • The potential or known impact of the pattern of mutations on the effectiveness of medical countermeasures, severity of disease, and ability to spread from person to person

These are the classifications:

  • Variants Being Monitored (VBM)
  • Variant of Interest (VOI)
  • Variant of Concern (VOC)
  • Variant of High Consequence (VOHC)

If you hear about a new variant on the news or hear that the World Health Organization classified a new variant, but cannot find it on the CDC’s list there’s a good chance that it’s currently a concern in places outside the United States. It’s possible that it will eventually become a concern in the United States, so monitor CDC’s list.

Q: Should we do anything different to prevent COVID-19 resulting from variants?

The basic strategies used to prevent COVID-19 (e.g., getting vaccinated, masking, social distancing, staying away from others if you’re sick) do not look different for variants.

If you have relaxed prevention strategies and a variant becomes a VOI or VOC (e.g., Delta), we recommend bringing those strategies back. Here are some examples:

  • Encourage vaccination.
  • Wear a mask indoors, especially in congregate spaces. Even if you’re fully vaccinated.
  • Do your best to social distance (at least 6 feet), especially when you can’t wear a mask (e.g., dining areas).
  • Reduce the number of people allowed in communal spaces (e.g., TV room, dining area) at one time.
  • Offer testing onsite or provide information for testing options nearby.
  • Separate symptomatic clients/residents from other clients/residents. Send staff home if they have any symptoms. Ask symptomatic people to get tested (even if they think it’s a cold).

Q: Are recommendations different due to variants?

No, recommendations have not changed due to the Delta variant. Check for updated recommendations here:

Quarantine and Isolation

Q: Are quarantine and isolation the same thing?

You quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus. You isolate when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms. For more guidance, review CDC’s COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation page.

Q: What should we do if someone tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms?

Any person who tests positive for COVID-19 or develops symptoms compatible with COVID-19 should stay away from other people (isolation), even if they’ve been fully vaccinated. Staff should isolate at home and not come into work. Clients/residents should be moved to a separate space, away from other clients/residents who are not sick. Staff and clients/residents should isolate until all of the following are true:

  • 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
  • 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
  • Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving*

*Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​

Q: What should we do if someone is identified as a close contact?

A person who is fully vaccinated does not need to quarantine and/or stay out of work, but they should get tested 5-7 days after their last contact with the person who has COVID-19.

A person who tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered does not need to get tested or quarantine following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.

A person who is not vaccinated or partially vaccinated should quarantine and/or stay out of work for 14 days after their last contact with the person who has COVID-19. See the following example if you need help calculating a quarantine period.

Example: Staff A develops symptoms and gets tested the same day, Sunday, August 22. They learn they tested positive on Monday, August 23, notify their work, and identify clients and staff who they were in close contact with starting 2 days before their symptoms developed (or test date if they’re asymptomatic). Staff B, who is partially vaccinated (received their 2nd dose of vaccine 1 week ago) is identified as a close contact and was with Staff A on Friday, August 20 (2 days before Staff A’s symptoms started). Staff B should:

  • Leave work as soon as they learn they were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • Get tested as soon as possible
  • Quarantine and stay home from work for 14 days after their last contact with the person with COVID-19
    • Day 0 of quarantine: Friday, August 20
    • Day 14 of quarantine: Friday, September 3
  • Since Staff B tested negative with their first test, they should get tested again 5-7 days after their first test (or sooner if they develop symptoms)
  • As long as they haven’t developed symptoms or tested positive, Staff B can resume normal activities and go to work as early as Saturday, September 4

Q: If someone returns from travel, should they quarantine?

You can find travel guidance at CDC’s Travel website. Quarantine and testing guidance are different depending on if you travel domestically or internationally and if you’re fully vaccinated.

Q: Are fully vaccinated staff and clients still required to isolate and quarantine?

Fully vaccinated staff or clients should isolate if they become symptomatic/test positive for COVID-19.

Fully vaccinated staff or clients do not need to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact, but they should get tested 5-7 days after they were with the person with COVID-19.

Q: How should we prepare for isolation?

If you need assistance identifying or creating isolation space for clients/residents, review:


Q: What is the new testing guidance?

MDH recommends facility-wide testing as soon as you learn of a staff or client/resident case that interacted with other staff or clients/residents at your facility.

Review MDH’s COVID-19 Testing Recommendations one-pager for recommendations on how often someone should get tested depending on their vaccination status.

People who are fully vaccinated should get tested if they in close contact to someone with COVID-19, living/working in a setting that is experiencing an outbreak, or if they have symptoms.

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not need to get tested or quarantine following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.

Q: What is the guidance for transporting someone to get tested?

Ideally, testing will be brought onsite to avoid the need for transportation. If you have exhausted all testing options and transporting someone to get tested is the only option, review MDH’s Transportation Guidance for non-emergency transport. It covers general considerations, as well as specific recommendations for personal vehicles, multi-person transport, and public transportation.


Q: Can you get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time?

Yes! The CDC’s guidance is that COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day, as well as coadministration within 14 days. 

Q: Are boosters or additional doses of vaccine available?

Yes! People living in and staff working at homeless service settings are eligible! Review CDC: COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot for more information.

Q: Where can I find data about vaccine breakthrough cases?

On Mondays, MDH updates data on breakthrough cases. As more people become vaccinated it is natural to see more cases of vaccine breakthrough (no vaccine is 100% effective). However, vaccines remain highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

Q: I lost my vaccine card, how can I get this information?

Minnesotans can now easily access their immunization record through their smartphones or other mobile devices by using an app called Docket. Docket enables residents with a Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC) record to securely view and share their immunization records. Docket can be a tool for employers to use in simplifying the process for employees to verify their vaccination status. Learn more about finding your immunization record through Docket on the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) website.

Q: If someone has already had COVID-19, why should they get vaccinated?

Data shows that unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.

Review this data on CDC’s website.

If a person tests positive for COIVD-19 and wants to get vaccinated, they should wait until they have completed their isolation period.

Q: Where can I find the COVID-19 Trusted Messenger trainings?

You can find materials on this website under Training Materials: