ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The greatest gift this holiday season? It just might be staying home this year.
That's what Dr. Michael Osterholm, University of Minnesota epidemiologist and member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, says as the state faces increasing COVID-19 cases.
Osterholm joined Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Friday's COVID-19 statewide update. Osterholm said he was not speaking as part of Biden's board, but rather for himself to urge Minnesotans to help reduce the surging spread of the virus. That includes avoiding large family gatherings this holiday season.
"I think we just have to remind ourselves again, this is our COVID year," said Osterholm. "And I have been involved in too many situations where young, healthy adults or others have come home for one or more celebrations, birthdays, whatever - have transmitted the virus in the home only to find that several weeks later grandpa and grandma or mom and dad or Uncle Bill and Aunt Jane are dead."
While he says there's an emotional need to gather with loved ones for the holidays, Osterholm advised that unless you can "bubble" yourself for 14 days, you should avoid a trip home. He suggested alternatives such as a virtual meet-up or calling relatives on the phone.
"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 a crisis," said Osterholm. "So, if you can do it safely, do it. And I know my position is not a standard position held by everyone, but I just know that there's going to be far too many tragic situations that will evolve out of these holidays. This is the year to think about the ultimate love for your family is to protect them however you need to do that."
In Minnesota's new guidelines this week, the state put a limit on 10 people at social gatherings from a total of three households. While the restriction won't be strictly enforced, Walz says the goal is to gain more compliance into the holidays.
According to the CDC's Thanksgiving guidance, a small dinner just with the members of your household is considered low risk. High-risk activities include a large gathering with members from outside your household and shopping in a crowded store.