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As the holidays arrive again in Winona, the city continues to support the state of Minnesota’s message strongly urging residents to limit or postpone gatherings.
The city, county, state and many parts of the country continue to experience uncontrolled COVID spread. In Winona County, daily cases have finally leveled off after breaking records for nearly two months, and reports of severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are higher than ever. Cases are not specific to any age group, location, or other factor. COVID is everywhere.
“Being safe in December can set us up for more freedom this winter,” said Mayor Mark Peterson. “I want to see a near future in Winona where kids can go back to school and play sports, where bars and restaurants reopen, where city facilities and other community gathering spaces can again serve our residents.”
So please - protect yourself and your loved ones this Christmas and holiday season by limiting or postponing your gatherings.
If you cancel an in-person gathering, there are alternatives. While everyone is exhausted from virtual meetings and video calls, they can still be a fun and healthy alternative this holiday season. Conversation starter questions, fun activities for virtual gatherings, and other resources are widely found online.
And remember that a simple check-in by phone, email, or sending a handmade card or letter can go a long way to family members and friends feeling isolated or lonely.
If you do plan to gather, please do everything you can to navigate what will be an incredibly risky choice. Abide by the state order to keep gatherings at 10 people or less with no more than 3 households, and the latest guidelines to only celebrate within your household. Avoid travel. And consider these tips and best practices from the CDC and other professionals:
Before the gathering:
Don’t travel - this is one of the biggest risks for further spread
Quarantine for a minimum of 7-10 days before a visit, checking for symptoms
Have every family member take a COVID test a week before the gathering, and share results with each other
Ensure that anyone who tests positive for COVID, has had a potential exposure in the last two weeks, or is experiencing any symptoms stays home - this is especially important, because COVID tests are not perfect and false negatives occur regularly
If you’re preparing food, consider packaging food like pie, dessert, snacks and other items into single-serve options and storing 24-48 hours before serving
Consider asking households to each bring their own food and drinks
Create a list of expectations and share them with everyone
During the gathering:
Keep the gathering short - limit to a few hours
Consider using porches, backyards, or nearby parks if weather cooperates
Wear masks at all times, indoors and outdoors; keep the mask in a clean place (like an unused plastic baggie) when eating
Keep a six-foot distance between yourself and others as much as possible
Space chairs out around the table, or eat at tables separated by household
Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water
Bring hand sanitizer and wipes and use them often
Provide single-use utensils and single-serving food items when possible
Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking
Limit people and movement in the kitchen, dining room, and anywhere food is being prepared or handled
Designate one or two people to serve food
Open windows whenever possible to increase air flow
After the gathering:
Get a test 5-7 days afterward
Quarantine for two weeks
Be sure to share any positive results with family members