Potential risks of holiday gatherings as coronavirus cases rise

Coronavirus

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The nation’s top infectious disease doctors said now is the time to start rethinking your holidays, starting with Thanksgiving.

This happens as the U.S. approaches nearly 8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 217,000 deaths, and new cases are on the rise. The U.S. recorded nearly 55,000 cases on Thursday, the highest in nearly three months, according to Johns Hopkins University.

There are six weeks until Thanksgiving and health experts have said we all should consider canceling or making some changes.

“It just means family,” said Lance Queen of Lansing, Michigan. “Being able to get together and be with family. Most importantly be with family, spend some time with family and create some memories.”

It’s the time for family and feasts that so many look forward to all year.

Vessna Sutter said she’s been hosting holiday family functions since her marriage 36-years-ago.

“So there’s no way that my cousins or my nieces and nephews will let me change it, so they are all following all the protocols, keeping the family safe, and we all are just going to do it all together,” she said.

Sutter’s family is coming from out-of-town.

However, health experts are warning with COVID-19 cases on the rise in more than 40 states, don’t make the decision lightly.

Dr. Christopher Belcher is the infection prevention medical director at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis.

“You have to weigh that risk of the desire to do something you always do to make you feel normal in the middle of a pandemic to get together vs. what’s the risk at catching it and what’s the risk of transmitting it to other people,” Dr. Belcher said.

It’s not just about the location of the gathering, but also who will be attending the event, Dr. Belcher said.

“If you have the elderly, if you have these extended family members who have medical problems all getting together it can be a very bad situation… and there are certainly lots of family outbreaks that happen,” Dr. Belcher said.

If you are going forward with plans to gather and eat, here’s what health experts recommend:

  • Consider the mode of transportation for your guests — it’s better to drive than to fly or take other modes of public transportation.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Do as much as you can outside, rather than indoors, where the virus is known to spread more easily.
  • If you do gather inside, open some windows to allow fresh air in.
  • Plan to wear masks indoors when you’re not eating.
  • Limit your activities in the two weeks before you gather. Less activity means less exposure for you and your loved ones.
  • Shop for gifts and groceries online as much as possible.
  • Put some thought into seating arrangement — spread people out as much as possible, and seat people from the same household together.
  • Avoid buffet-style dining and potlucks. Have one person serve all the food with separate serving spoons, so people aren’t touching the same utensils.
  • If you are sick, do not travel, and do not attend gatherings and celebrations.
  • Get the flu vaccine before the holidays.

“I think people are ready to get back to a normal way of life, it’s a little depressing,” said Andre Feher.

While some said they won’t change a thing, others are already making adjustments.

“The kids will quarantine for a couple days at a friend’s apartment that’s available and then they’ll get a COVID test, and if they’re negative then they’ll come move over to us,” said Shonah Radman.

Also, keep in mind that past holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day and Fourth of July have been linked to spikes across the country.

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Has the pandemic caused you to change your holiday plans? Tell us what your Thanksgiving will look like this year, compared to 2019.

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