SAGINAW, MI — With Thanksgiving approaching, Saginaw County Health Department officials are asking the public to reimagine their holiday gatherings so they celebrate safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want people to think outside the box for Thanksgiving,” said Saginaw County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Delicia Pruitt.
Pruitt said if you have COVID-19, are awaiting COVID-19 test results, are in quarantine because you were exposed to COVID-19, or have symptoms of the disease, you should not attend a Thanksgiving dinner or other holiday celebration. Additionally, if you or someone you live with is at increased risk of severe illness, you should reconsider attending these types of gatherings with people outside your household.
Here are some frequently asked questions Pruitt and Health Officer Chris Harrington answered during a Zoom meeting Wednesday, Nov. 4:
What if someone tests positive for COVID-19 in the days leading up to a holiday celebration?
Those individuals should stay home for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, be without a fever for at least 24 hours, and have symptoms that are improving before going out in public or socializing again, Pruitt said.
How many people should I have over for Thanksgiving?
Indoor, private gatherings are restricted to 10 people and should be limited to no more than two households, per the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Harrington said.
What are some tips for social distancing?
Pruitt said it’s best to avoid handshakes and hugs and spread guests out throughout the house, rather than have everyone sit together at the same table. Better yet, try a virtual gathering via Zoom or another video conferencing app, she said.
What about masks?
Pruitt said “you really should wear a mask if you’re not eating.”
How can we improve indoor air ventilation?
When gathering indoors, Harrington suggests opening windows and doors, if possible, to reduce risk. Gathering outdoors is safer, but may not be practical in late-November in Michigan.
What are some food safety considerations?
Pruitt suggests avoiding potluck gatherings. Instead, have one healthy household prepare all the food and consider splitting the cost with guests. In addition, Harrington recommends having one person plate and serve the food rather than having everyone serve their own buffet-style. It’s smart to have hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and gloves available, as well.
Avoid crowds and other risky behavior in the weeks leading up to a holiday celebration
Pruitt said people should be thinking about their behaviors and activities and minimizing their risk now, weeks before they attend a family gathering where they could potentially infect someone else. That means practicing the “three W’s,” washing your hands, wearing a mask and watching your distance, and avoiding crowds, small, crowded spaces, and people who aren’t wearing masks.
“We really want you to be able to go to the family dinner safely and not infect someone who, you would live, and they would not. That’s a difficult burden to carry,” she said.
Pruitt acknowledged that these measures may be inconvenient but urged residents to keep things in perspective.
“I know it’s almost a little of a hassle, but you have to do what it takes to keep yourself safe, and that’s what’s most important right now,” she said. “We know that this COVID-19 time is tough for all of us, we’re going to do what we can to make it safe so we can come out of this.”
Click here for Saginaw County’s COVID-19 data. Watch the health department’s video on Facebook here.
Michigan health officials reported 4,101 new coronavirus cases and 19 new deaths Wednesday, the first one-day total of more than 4,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
For statewide data, visit MLive’s coronavirus data page, here. To find a testing site near you, check out the state’s online test finder, here, send an email to [email protected], or call 888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
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