As coronavirus cases surge in the state and across the nation, the University of Minnesota's top infectious disease expert is pleading with Minnesotans to pump the brakes on their holiday plans.
In a state coronavirus briefing on Friday, Dr. Michael Osterholm said via phone call that "if we really want to be serious this year about loving and protecting our families," it's imperative to find "alternative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving."
Saying he's "been involved with too many situations where young, healthy adults or others have come home" for a celebration or holiday and unwittingly carry the virus with them, "only to find that several weeks later that grandma and grandpa, or mom and dad, or Uncle Bill and Aunt Jane are dead," Olsterholm recommended "virtual" Thanksgivings, or simply making phone calls to friends and loved ones.
Only if you can "bubble yourself" — i.e. quarantine at home with no outside contact — for 14 days prior to the holiday should you take the trip home, Osterholm said.
Acknowledging that we all "emotionally need" holiday get-togethers, the doctor added that your "gift" to your family this year is not risking bringing COVID-19 home to them.
"It's one of those days where, please don't feel like you have to be pressured into getting together for holidays and then creating the crisis," he said.
Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the U of M, was recently named to President-elect Joe Biden's 13-member COVID-19 Advisory Board.
The Mayo Clinic has a more in-depth guide for what to do about the holidays during the pandemic. Though they generally advise against travel, Mayo says that you should "avoid crowded transportation hubs such as airports" if you do decide to take a trip home this year.
But if you've been sick or exposed to COVID-19, you should stay home — while people who are at increased risk for illness should avoid in-person gatherings altogether.