Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS reminding Michiganders of COVID-19 safety guidance for Thanksgiving

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are reminding Michiganders of the COVID-19 safety guidances set for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Gov. Whitmer released a video Tuesday encouraging Michiganders to wear a mask, practice safe physical distancing, wash hand frequently and follow the new MDHHS' epidemic order. 

“Thanksgiving is about taking time to appreciate the things around us as well as give to others. This year in particular, I am thankful for our frontline workers in our hospitals, child care centers, grocery stores, and everyone else who put their lives on the line to protect our families from COVID-19. As the weather gets colder and as cases continue to skyrocket, we must do everything we can to protect these heroes on the front lines,” said Governor Whitmer. “We all have a role to play to keep our family, friends, neighbors, and frontline workers safe. I know this year will be different, but to protect our families, frontline workers, and small businesses, we must make short-term sacrifices for our long-term health.” 

The MDHHS also issued new guidance for vulnerable populations this Thanksgiving

“While we are advising everyone to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings beyond their own households, it’s especially critical that residents of nursing homes and other group homes remain in their homes during the holiday,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “If these individuals contract COVID while traveling, they run the risk of bringing it back to others who are especially vulnerable to illness and death. This year, please celebrate Thanksgiving by Zoom or by phone, and next year’s Thanksgiving will be better.” 

On Nov. 18, MDHHS issued an epidemic order that limited indoor gatherings to no more than two households. This order does not prohibit residents of the facilities above from leaving a care facility; however, it is recommended that:

  • Residents be strongly encouraged to stay in place, especially in light of increasing prevalence of COVID-19 cases.
  • Providers and direct care staff educate residents and their family and friends on the associated risk of leaving a care facility and attending gatherings with family and friends as well as the steps they should take to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • Providers encourage residents to stay connected with loved ones through alternative means of communication, such as phone and video calls.

Care facilities should follow recommended protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 if a resident chooses to leave the care facility even after being provided such counseling:

  • Limit close contact (maintain physical distancing of six feet or more), adhere to the gathering restrictions in the Nov. 18 order, and use technology to engage with others remotely.
  • Wear a facemask or cloth face covering at all times (including in cars and homes) unless actively eating or drinking, or medical exemptions apply.
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items.
  • Keep safe around food and drinks. Avoid communal serving utensils, passing of food and potluck or buffet style food service, and instead opt for individually prepared plates by a single server.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer often.
  • Avoid large gatherings, crowded areas and high-risk activities such as singing.
  • For those attending a gathering, avoid contact with individuals outside of their household for 14 days prior to the gathering if possible and follow MDHHS’s guidance for safe social gatherings.
  • Ask anyone who has signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, to not attend the gathering.
  • If possible, conduct gatherings outdoors. Indoor gatherings should have good ventilation, consider opening windows and doors if possible.
  • Verbally greet others instead of shaking hands or giving hugs. Think ahead about how you will manage to prevent physical interactions with loved ones of different ages such as young children.
  • All residents who leave the care facility should be screened upon return and if symptomatic, a resident’s health care provider or the local health department should be contacted to determine if quarantine is warranted.
  • Strictly adhere to all testing, visitation and re-entry after visitation requirements for care facilities subject to the Wednesday, Oct. 21 Epidemic Order or Thursday, Oct. 29 Epidemic Order.

Executives in Oakland and Macomb counties are also sharing their expectations for the holiday. 

"I know we are tired of the virus but the virus isn’t tired of us," said Oakland County Executive David Coulter. "I’m really worried about where our numbers are. We are triple what we were in the fall."

He is telling his residence to keep gatherings small and to give relatives a heads up on holiday house rules ahead of time. 

"Should be under 10 people, people already in your household and maybe one other household," he said. "We have to be more stubborn than the virus and more stubborn than your uncle that doesn’t want to follow the protocol."

Executive Mark Hackle has similar cautions in Macomb County. 

"There is that personal responsibility to keep ourselves safe and others safe," he said.