While Michiganders are facing yet another strong resurgence in COVID-19 cases, colder weather has forced many to spend more time indoors as the holidays quickly approach. People must now ask themselves an important question: to travel or not to travel?
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released a statement Oct. 21, providing guidelines and advice for those expecting to gather with family during the holidays.
It recommended that travelers continue practicing safe COVID-19 precautions, including mask wearing, social distancing and hand-washing.
“Celebrating the holiday season with family and friends is one of our most cherished traditions,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said in the statement. “Even though the way we celebrate may have to be different, the guidance issued today shows there are still many ways to spend quality time with family and friends safely during this festive season.”
MDHHS said in the statement that the greatest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the holidays is to remain home and not venture out to get-togethers.
"Staying home is definitely going to be the best option," MDHHS Communications Director Lynn Sutfin said. "That way you're not potentially spreading the virus. You're not, perhaps, contracting the virus. So, that's the safest option."
Instead, the statement encouraged people to try connecting virtually. But for those that do physically meet, it also gave a list of advice on how to join safely. While limiting events to 10 or fewer attendees and holding events outside if possible, congregates should:
Wear cloth masks.
Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Keep safe around food drinks, including following good hygiene and limiting the amount of people in areas where food is prepared.
Bring food and drinks for themselves and members of their household. Avoid potluck gatherings.
Have one person serve all shareable food and consider using single-use items for condiments, plates and utensils.
Traveling raises questions for students, too. Many students will want to return home as the semester ends, but should they? And if so, how can they do it safely?
"The thing to be considerate of is the fact that 40% of the individuals who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic," Sutfin said. "So, potentially a college student could very easily bring home the virus to mom and dad or grandma and grandpa."
Sutfin said students should consider self-isolating and — if available — testing themselves prior to leaving campus for home.
Along with the holiday season, though, people have to consider flu season. Sutfin said MDHHS highly recommends that everyone get their flu shot this year. As flu infections begin to mix with rising COVID-19 cases, she said it's necessary for everyone to take steps in protecting themselves and others.
"We are definitely seeing these case numbers increase," Sutfin said. "... We are urging strongly that everyone take those precautions. Wear your mask when you're out in public. Make sure you are physically distancing yourself by six feet from others who are not from your household. Wash your hands often, and if you're not feeling well, the best thing you can do for yourself and everyone else is to stay home."
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