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Health experts: Even after negative test, gathering for Thanksgiving is risky

A false negative test could be costly, experts warn.
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For the umpteenth time in recent weeks, Minnesota health experts are again advising people to avoid gathering with anyone outside of their immediate household to celebrate Thanksgiving – and that recommendation holds firm even if a person has tested negative for COVID-19 in the days ahead of the holiday. 

“If you were negative and you were tested on Sunday, you could easily be positive Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday,” said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Dr. Mark Sannes, HealthPartners senior medical director and infectious disease specialist, told the Pioneer Press that people who have completely quarantined for two weeks may be safe, but there's no guarantee that everyone else planning to attend a Thanksgiving gathering has done the same, thus rendering the setting unpredictable.

Social gatherings with members outside of your immediate household are banned by Gov. Tim Walz's executive order, but Dr. Michael Osterholm, director at the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, believes too many people will ignore the guidance and cause a spike in the coming weeks. 

"This is grave concern right now. Many, many people just don't appreciate how dangerous this situation is right now. As I've said repeatedly over the past few weeks, we're n the most dangerous public health moment since 1918," Osterholm said in an interview with WCCO Radio.

"Yesterday we had the most number of deaths dating back to last spring's big surge of cases when COVID-19 became the No. 1 leading cause of death in this country, and we're actually very concerned we're going to see that accelerated over the course of the next few weeks as more people get together and swap air. That's what's going to transmit this virus."

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Monday speculated that because it's been 10 days since the state's highest single-day case count (8,689) that Minnesota may be experiencing a temporary trough before another wave hits.  

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"We have seen our case numbers fluctuating from day-to-day. We would not consider that we have any sort of a reliable trend just yet," Malcolm said. 

"While we've been pleased to see somewhat lower case counts in some of the recent days, we think this might be another of those patterns that we've seen earlier in the epidemic – a series of waves, and possibly we are in a trough now between waves."

Even though the numbers reported each day haven't duplicated the high point on Nov. 14, there have still been 5,000 to 7,000 cases reported each day. And there is no sign of hospitalizations beginning to decrease. 

Through Nov. 23 there were 1,828 people with COVID-19 admitted to Minnesota hospitals. A month ago there were fewer than 600 hospitalized with the disease. 

The latest forecast from Novak Weather

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