MDH changes advice, says Minnesotans should only celebrate Thanksgiving with immediate household

"As tempting as it is to stick with our cherished traditions this year, we really need people to reconsider and frankly not gather with other households."

The Minnesota Department of Health is urging people to only celebrate the upcoming holidays with their immediate household.

"As tempting as it is to stick with our cherished traditions this year, we really need people to reconsider and frankly not gather with other households – especially if those households include people in a high-risk category for severe illness," MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Monday.

This is a shift from last week, when health officials said it was OK for groups of no more than 10 people from three households to get together. 

"Right now, any gathering of more than a few people with more than your immediate household presents a much higher risk than was the case even a couple of weeks ago," Malcolm said.

"So we are asking you – the health guidance is getting more conservative in this sense – to help us slow the spread of COVID-19 by celebrating only with members of your immediate household," she added.

This comes as cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing – Minnesota has added 26,000 new cases over the past three days – reaching levels beyond what MDH could have imagined, Malcolm said.

Malcolm said she wished the state and country were in a place where it is safe to get together in smaller groups with a limited number of households, "but we really believe we are at a crisis point."

Any time you gather with people outside of your household the risk of spreading the virus increases because even people who don't have COVID-19 symptoms can spread it to others, she noted.

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And this includes college students coming home for Thanksgiving break. MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann is urging students to "lay low" before they travel home for the holidays. 

"We know there will be a lot of pushback, a lot of people really wanting to get together anyway despite the health guidance. But we really do believe that what we're going to do in the next couple of weeks is going to tell the story of what later December and January and February are going to look like in our state," Malcolm said. 

She called adjusting holiday plans a "short-term temporary sacrifice," albeit a "big one," but noted it is a step people can take now to "reduce the spread of COVID-19 at a time when our entire state – and in fact the entire country – is one gigantic hotspot."

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