By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been about a year since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Minnesota. And since then, life has changed and the virus has evolved.

Even though we know more about this virus now than we did last March, there’s still a lot of information to track — and it can get a bit overwhelming. So, every week, we’ll be asking experts about recent COVID-19 developments.

Returning for the fourth week is Dr. George Morris, who is the Physician Vice President for Performance Excellence at CentraCare. Since January of last year, he’s been serving as the physician incident commander for CentraCare’s COVID-19 response.

Watch the video above, or read his answers to some of the bigger COVID-19 questions below.

The CDC recently updated guidance for vaccinated people. What are the key takeaways?

So, a couple of the key takeaways that I learned from it were: One, we should encourage more people to get fully vaccinated. Because what this did was give us better and clearer guidelines on what being fully vaccinated means.

Now, we can be more assured that by gathering together in a home, small place, you know, office space, as long as everybody is fully vaccinated, we don’t need to be as diligent about the masking and the social distancing. So we can resume again, this new future of activity.

The other thing that it allowed also is better guidance on if I am fully vaccinated or a person is fully vaccinated, and I get an exposure. I don’t have to immediately go into quarantine, I don’t have to immediately go into isolation as long as I can track my symptoms and monitor them. So as long as I stay asymptomatic. I don’t have to really get into that quarantine kind of timeline again.

What promising COVID treatments are out there right now?

We really do have kind of a handful of treatments that seem to give people the most benefit.

And they include dexamethasone, which is a steroid, to really decrease the inflammation that’s going on in people. The other is an antiviral treatment called remdesivir. And that those are two of the most common ones that we use for people, especially when they’re critically ill in the hospital.

Another key treatment is anticoagulation. So, that’s treatments designed to help stop the blood from clotting, because COVID really stimulates a lot of clotting and inflammation and damage in our bodies, so this has also been key to stop those side effects.

The other ones are probably more just good quality care.

We even have one specific treatment that’s designed for outpatients. That’s a treatment that’s called monoclonal antibodies.

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It’s an infusion. So you get an IV, and it really helps to slow that progression and keep people out of the hospital. And that is really exciting to see that expanded throughout all of Minnesota.

When can people with lung problems like COPD and other chronic diseases expect to be able to get the vaccine?

Now we’re going to shift into people with chronic medical conditions as being a priority group, along with a few other additional essential care worker categories. Where we’re going to start with this is people under the age of 65, that have a list of, we’ll call it, very serious conditions that put them at high risk for serious COVID complications.

So the highest risk group is COPD, on oxygen, along with people on active cancer therapy, some other chronic lung diseases, people with immunodeficiency syndromes.

As we get more and more vaccine available, we’re going to make it available to more and more people with additional chronic diseases.

NOTE: COVID-19 data in Minnesota is updated daily by the Minnesota Department of Health. You can find updates on our coronavirus page, as well as the health department’s website.

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