MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Since the spring, we’ve learned so much more about COVID-19. Unfortunately, the virus is now running rampant during a season usually celebrated with family and friends.

So, what do we know about holiday safety? Good question.

Is it OK to send holiday cards?

Yes.

“That’s the easiest one,” said Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist with Allina Health. “The virus does not remain on porous surfaces that well.”

Over the past several months, researchers have found the novel coronavirus is not primarily spread via surfaces, but rather through large and small droplets in the air.

Is it safe to drop off food for a friend?

Yes.

“There’s no evidence to suggest food-borne virus disease transmission,” said Dr. Craig Hedberg, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota.

He points out that the personal interaction with dropping off the food could be more problematic. People should wear masks, keep physical distance, and create an air barrier to prevent virus spread.

Do plastic or glass barriers help?

“It’s not great,” said Dr. Angie Ulrich, an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Minnesota. “It’s better than nothing, but I wouldn’t say it’s safe.”

She said barriers help reduce the large droplets from reaching one person to another, but doesn’t help dissipate the aerosols, which is a large component in transmission.

Is it safe to go to the store?

Last week, Gov. Tim Walz said the data didn’t show outbreaks in retail locations. Dr. Hedberg said that’s true, but given the large rise in COVID cases, it is hard to trace them all.

Hedberg recommends asking four questions when going into an indoor space:

1. How many people are there?
2. How long are you in that space?
3. How close are you to other people?
4. Is everyone wearing a mask?

“The general advice is that you want to spend as little time around other people as you can for the near future,” Hedberg said.

And, finally, the biggest question that comes to Dr. Greg Siwek, an infectious disease specialist at Park Nicollet, is should families gather for the holidays?

“That’s hard to answer,” said Dr. Siwek. “It’s very easy for the virus to spread that way.”

On Monday, Governor Walz and health officials asked Minnesota to keep their gatherings to immediate family only. Dr. Siwek says if a family still chooses to gather with another, they should follow CDC guidelines for holiday celebrations. bv

“You need to make that situation as safe as you can,” Dr. Siwek said.

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Heather Brown

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