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As the holidays arrive in Winona the surge of COVID-19 has never been more dangerous. The city is making the extraordinarily difficult but necessary decision to support the state of Minnesota’s message strongly urging residents to limit or postpone their gatherings.
The city, county, state and most parts of the country are all experiencing uncontrolled COVID spread. In Winona County, daily cases are many times higher than they’ve ever been. Reports of severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising. Cases are not specific to any one age group, location, or any other factor. COVID is everywhere.
So please - protect yourself and your loved ones this Thanksgiving and holiday season by limiting or postponing your gatherings. This is hard to even consider, let alone recommend. But it’s what will save lives and give the city and county a chance to slow this spread long enough to get a handle on it again.
If you cancel an in-person gathering, there are alternatives. While everyone is exhausted from virtual meetings and video calls, they can still be a fun and healthy alternative this holiday season. Conversation starter questions, fun activities for virtual gatherings, and other resources are widely found online.
And remember that a simple check-in by phone, email, or even sending a handmade card or letter can go a long way to family members and friends feeling isolated and lonely.
If you do plan to gather, please do everything you can to navigate what will be an incredibly risky choice. And no, nobody will be knocking on your door and counting people. When it comes to the new state COVID orders around gatherings, city employees and police officers aren’t doing anything different than what they already do - educating the public and responding to calls for service.
Please abide by the state order to keep gatherings at 10 people or less with no more than 3 households, and the latest guidelines to only celebrate within your household. Avoid travel. And consider these tips and best practices from the CDC and other professionals:
Before the gathering:
Don’t travel - this is one of the biggest risks for further spread
Have every family member take a COVID test a week before the gathering, and share results with each other.
Ensure that anyone who tests positive for COVID, has had a potential exposure in the last two weeks, or is experiencing any symptoms stays home - this is especially important, because COVID tests are not perfect and false negatives occur regularly
If you’re preparing food, consider packaging food like pie, dessert, snacks and other items into single-serve options and storing 24-48 hours before serving
Consider asking households to each bring their own food and drinks
Create a list of expectations and share them with everyone
During the gathering:
Keep the gathering short - limit to a few hours
Consider using porches, backyards, or nearby parks if weather cooperates
Wear masks at all times, indoors and outdoors; keep it in a clean place (like an unused plastic baggie) when eating
Keep a six-foot distance between yourself and others as much as possible
Space chairs out around the table, or eat at tables separated by household
Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water
Bring hand sanitizer and wipes and use them often
Provide single-use utensils and single-serving food items when possible
Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking
Limit people and movement in the kitchen, dining room, and anywhere food is being prepared or handled
Designate one or two people to serve food
Open windows whenever possible to increase air flow
After the gathering:
Get a test 5-7 days afterward
Quarantine for two weeks
Be sure to share any positive results with family members