REGIONAL- With Thanksgiving just around the corner and falling in the midst of the steepest increase of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, state officials have expressed increased …
REGIONAL- With Thanksgiving just around the corner and falling in the midst of the steepest increase of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, state officials have expressed increased urgency in limiting family gatherings to help control the outbreak.
Gov. Tim Walz tackled the issue head on with a new executive order issued Wednesday that bans indoor social gatherings involving anyone outside of an immediate household.
The Minnesota Department of Health had been recommending that members of no more than three households gather for Thanksgiving, with a maximum of ten people, but Commissioner Jan Malcom said Monday that Minnesotans should not spend the holiday with people who live outside of their immediate family.
“As tempting as it is to just stick with our cherished traditions, this year we really need people to reconsider and frankly not gather with other households,” she said. “The numbers are really terrifying. In Minnesota we’ve had alarming numbers for several days now.”Malcom said the rapid increase in cases, due overwhelmingly to community spread in informal small group gatherings, has put the state on pace to exceed 300,000 cases and 3,000 deaths by Thanksgiving.
College students living away from home but returning for the holiday pose a particular risk of transmitting the virus, and older adults with underlying health conditions are most at risk of suffering severe illness and death if they contract the disease.
With an incubation period of two to 14 days for COVID-19, Thanksgiving now falls well within the period where people without symptoms can transmit the virus to others, and testing negative now doesn’t guarantee that a person will be COVID-free in the days surrounding the holiday.
The best way to stay safe, Malcom said, is to limit celebrations to immediate household members. Inviting extended family or friends increases the risk of coronavirus transmission.
The Health Department website lists these precautionary measures for small gatherings:
• Hold small gatherings outside, if possible.
• Wear masks and stay 6 feet away from other guests.
• Open windows and/or doors to allow air to flow, when possible, if gathering indoors.
• Wear a mask indoors and outdoors if gathering with anyone who does not live with you.
• Encourage guests to bring their own food, drinks, and treats. Do not share utensils or drinking cups.
• Always stay at least six feet away from people who do not live with you.
• Remember who came to the gathering. Keep a list of invited guests in case one of them gets COVID-19. This list will be helpful if you’re contacted by a health department case interviewer.