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Staying Healthy in Summer 2020

Published in For the Health of It Author: George Morris,MD

As Minnesota continues to reopen its economy, it’s good to remember that COVID-19 is still circulating across the state.

George Morris, MD — COVID-19 Incident Commander for CentraCare — was recently interviewed by WCCO's Kate Raddatz to discuss the current situation. To learn more, you can watch the following video. Or read the transcript of their conversation below.

Kate: What is the current situation in our community when it comes to COVID-19 cases?

Dr. Morris: In Central Minnesota, we’ve seen our peak — our highest part. We are certainly seeing a decrease in the numbers of new cases per day. We’ve been waiting for this to see our opportunity to be on that downward part of the slope.

Kate: Obviously there’s been a lot of group gatherings in the last few weeks, a lot of protests and marches. What do we expect to see come from this? Should we be seeing that data now? Or is it too early to say?

Dr. Morris: I think we’re still a little early. What we’ve been looking for is that two- to 14-day window. That’s when people start to develop symptoms. We also know by the spread rate, if one person has it during that two- to four-day period, they’re likely to spread it to four other people. And then it’ll take another one to two weeks for those four people to spread it to 16, and then to 64. So we’re trying to keep on our toes and keep watching for one or two weeks after these large gatherings. Do we start to see a small tick up and then does it start to explode exponentially?

Kate: So are we looking at a few more weeks before we could see any difference?

Dr. Morris: I think we are. And I think that’s kind of where we’re trying to be on the watch with these large gatherings.

We know we’re all looking forward to being out more in the summer. It’s beautiful outside. If we can do more things outside while still maintaining the small groups, small family units, small gatherings. And I know we’re looking at public spaces, if there’s enough space. With many of the memorials for George Floyd and the demonstrations and the protests, as you see people walking around, spacing themselves out and wearing face coverings or masks, I think that is something.

If we can remember to show our respect for each other to help decrease that spread, that’s where we will really avoid another big surge.

Kate: As Minnesota has started to reopen, health leaders were saying that we could see the peak this week. Is that still the case? Or do we think it’s coming at a different time now?

Dr. Morris: I think as I look at it, I would almost view it as a couple peaks. I think we have had our peak in Minnesota. Our numbers of new cases per day are going down, just like the numbers in Central Minnesota. However, we’re not out of the woods. We still have these small pockets that show up.

Kate: What is your advice when it comes to people wanting to enjoy activities this summer that just started opening? Like salons, restaurants, etc.?

Dr. Morris: I think we should go outside. We should go for walks, biking, hiking. We should be on lakes. We should be on boats and fishing. We should fish from shore and we should do it in as safe a way as possible, which generally means small groups and staying with your family unit. That way typically you’d say you’ve already been spreading it within the house anyways.

Remember to stay a little closer to home. Now may not be the time to go explore our nation. Be very careful when you’re out in public. If you’re in a building, wear a mask, wear a face cover, those are the times when we know the spread is easier. In a large gathering or in contained spaces, we also know the spread is easier.

And while you’re doing that, be sure you’re still maintaining good hygiene, cover your cough, wash your hands, wash surfaces. We really want to be able to enjoy this in a safe way as possible.

Kate: What about restaurants then? How does that work when you’re eating?

Dr. Morris: Yeah, it’s hard. I’ve dined in restaurants and what I’ve seen is they’ve spaced the tables out, so it’s every other table and outside seating where you can maintain as close to six plus feet as possible. I go in to the restaurant with my mask on, I talk to the wait staff and I know that when I’m talking to somebody else that’s not in my family, I put my mask on.

Kate: Do you think Minnesota is reopening too early? Or does this feel reasonable to you?

Dr. Morris: I think this feels reasonable. I know it’s hard. There’s not a right or wrong answer.

Much of it is that we want to get as close to living with this virus. We need to learn to, as they would say, wrestle with it or live with it or just manage it. And every day, every week we’re learning the lessons.

We have a great state, we have a medically advanced community. We provide great care. We have world-class prevention with the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health and Dr. Michael Osterholm guiding us.

Kate: Obviously you’re a doctor in Minnesota, but when you look at these numbers in Wisconsin, Minnesota’s numbers are dramatically higher for both cases and deaths. Why do you think that is?

Dr. Morris: That’s a hard one. And as I look at the statistics nationally, and we look at Minnesota even compared with New York, California, Arizona, my sense on it might be that everybody’s having their wave just at different times.

While we are all Midwest, Minnesota is different than Wisconsin, different than Iowa, different than the Dakotas. My sense is that if the population density is a little higher, you’re likely having spread easier.

If you might have certain types of businesses or social gatherings, it’s going to spread a little sooner. And what I’m seeing nationally is just some of the states and regions are going to catch up. So we’re just hitting it at different times.

Kate: Let’s talk about kids. It’s summer and a lot of parents don’t have summer camps. As a parent, I’m constantly wondering can you go to the park? Can you go to a swimming pool? What’s your advice there?

Dr. Morris: I think we should let the kids do more activities. This is a time when we dialed it into a very safe place of keep kids at home, stop schools, stop the summer youth programs. Now is the time to slowly open it back up again.

If we can go to pools with half capacity, public settings can be wide open, generally that’s been the guidance for most of the places is to go back gradually.

With youth sports programs, what can you do with smaller groups? Act in pods, do more training and more like free play, as opposed to the guided, organized sports. I think there is an opportunity to have a little bit more free play in small groups and that will help our social, emotional and mental health of the kids and our parents.