As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Minnesota surges, state health officials have released guidelines aimed at helping people celebrate the upcoming holidays safely.
The Minnesota Department of Health said this week the acceleration in cases and community spread of the virus is "alarming," while Gov. Tim Walz said he's "nervous" about the future of the virus in the coming weeks.
With family gatherings being one of the common ways the virus is spreading in Minnesota, health officials are reminding people that every time you get together with people outside of your household, your risk for contracting and spreading the virus increases, according to the guidance released Friday.
MDH hopes Minnesotans heed this advice while making their plans for the holidays, saying they may need to look a little different this year in order to keep people you care about safe.
Here are public health officials' recommendations for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos.
Health officials, including MDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are recommending people avoid high-risk activities this Halloween, which includes trick-or-treating where treats are handed to kids who go door to door; indoor costume parties and haunted houses; truck-or-treating where kids are handed treats from cars lined up in parking lots; and hayrides.
Instead, MDH recommends choosing lower-risk activities, such as carving/decorating pumpkins at home or outdoors with neighbors or friends or hosting a virtual costume contest.
Meanwhile, MDH considers outdoor costume parties and haunted forests a medium-risk activity, as is visiting a pumpkin patch or orchard and no-contact trick-or-treating (where treats are placed in individual goodie bags at the end of the driveway or edge of a yard for people to grab as they pass).
No matter how you celebrate, MDH says you should stay 6 feet away from others whenever possible and wear a mask at indoor and outdoor gatherings if the people you're with don't live with you – costume masks are NOT a good substitute for a two-layer cloth mask, and MDH says wearing one under a costume mask isn't recommended because it can be hard to breathe.
Dia de los Muertos
State health officials are urging people to avoid high-risk activities while celebrating the upcoming Dia de los Muertos, such as large indoor celebrations and large dinner parties.
Instead, MDH recommends lower-risk activities to mark the holiday, such as preparing family recipes for loved ones and friends and delivering them without making contact with others; playing music in your home; and making or decorating masks or an altar for those who have died.
The following activities are considered medium-risk: outdoor, open-air parades with a small group; visiting and decorating graves of loved ones; and hosting or attending a small outdoor dinner with local family and friends.
Other safety tips
MDH has a list of reminders for gatherings of any kind during the COVID-19 pandemic to help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Stay home if you're sick, at a higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19 or if you've potentially been exposed to the virus.
- Avoid traveling as it increases the chance of you getting and spreading COVID-19.
- Keep gatherings small – indoor events should be limited to 10 people or fewer, while outdoor gatherings should have a maximum of 25 people.
- Host gatherings outside whenever possible.
- If you're hosting an event indoors, open windows and/or doors to allow air to flow.
- Wear a mask whenever you're gathering with people you don't live with – this goes for both indoor and outdoor gatherings.
- Encourage people to bring their own food and drinks – don't share utensils or drinking cups.
- Stay 6 feet away from people with who you do not live.
- Remember who you gathered with – keep a list of invited guests in case someone gets COVID-19. This will be helpful if the health department calls in its effort to contact trace.