FARGO — Not everyone takes the threat of COVID-19 seriously like Katherine Kaspari’s family does, but perhaps they should.

Kaspari, 31, of Fargo, suffered for almost a year with a rare, genetic liver disease and had a liver transplant on June 19 in Minneapolis.

Now, she’s preparing for her first summer gathering with extended family over the July 4 holiday.

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“I’m very excited,” she said.

Having undergone a transplant like she has, or having underlying health conditions like many Americans do, puts a person at higher risk of complications, even death, from COVID-19.

While some people complain about having to wear a mask or keep physical distance because of the pandemic, Kaspari said her family is all-in on trying to protect her health and that of others.

What if they weren’t willing to take safety measures?

“I would be staying at home,” Kaspari said.

Public health officials in North Dakota and Minnesota are advising people take precautions for COVID-19 this Independence Day weekend and at lake gatherings, cookouts and other events.

Cheryl Sapp, a public health and disease prevention nurse at Clay County Public Health, said with some venues closed due to the pandemic, she expects families will gather — maybe even more than they normally would.

She pushed recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health, as per Phase III of the state’s Stay Safe plan.

Indoor gatherings should be limited to 10 people, while outdoor gatherings should be kept to a maximum of 25 people, Sapp said.

People should wear some kind of face covering, she said, unless they’re outdoors and not in close proximity to others.

Those who refuse to wear a mask either need to maintain six feet from others or potentially not go to the event, Sapp said.

As for hugging, she suggests people avoid it, if possible. Since COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through airborne droplets, hugging and talking in close proximity with someone could easily spread the virus.

She recommends people wash their hands often, keep their hands away from their face and have hand sanitizer readily available.

For extended families who are gathering, people from the same household should sit together at meals.

“Think about what that potential is for family members with underlying health conditions,” Sapp said.

While COVID-19 numbers around the Fargo-Moorhead area may be somewhat stable compared to spikes that occurred in mid-May, the danger is far from over.

Southern states are seeing huge increases in cases after businesses, restaurants and bars opened up.

“We certainly don’t want to be back at that point,” Sapp said.

Katherine Kaspari worked in property management before she developed a rare, genetic liver disease. After a liver transplant June 19, she's recovering a home. Special to The Forum
Katherine Kaspari worked in property management before she developed a rare, genetic liver disease. After a liver transplant June 19, she's recovering a home. Special to The Forum

At the cabin gathering at a small lake in Minnesota’s Otter Tail County this weekend, Kaspari said her family will wear masks, wash hands and use hand sanitizer often.

Some family members have even been tested for COVID-19 as a precaution.

The cabins aren’t close together, Kaspari said, so there’s plenty of room to spread out.

“We can still play croquet, have barbecues,” she said.