MDHHS issues Thanksgiving guidance for vulnerable populations


CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112,   

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) today issued Thanksgiving celebration guidance for vulnerable populations to help ensure their health and safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“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.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at and


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