Thanksgiving is swiftly approaching – and the holiday is usually a time when family and friends travel near and far to celebrate together. However, this Thanksgiving, like the rest of 2020, is plagued with a health pandemic. With covid-19 cases surging and setting new records of infections, medical experts are making predictions and advising ways to stay safe and help prevent further spread of the virus. Here are 5 things doctors and scientists are saying about Thanksgiving and traveling.
With families and friends preparing to travel and gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, public health experts are concerned it will be a super spreader event.
Some people are cautious like one woman who told CBS New York, “I’m not taking any risks. I’m not fearful but I’m careful.” However others who are fatigued from the isolation covid-19 has brought are planning to take precautions and gather anyway.
More than a third of Americans are planning to gather for Thanksgiving, with 38 percent preparing to gather with 10 or more people according to a new national survey by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The same survey reported 33 percent of that number aren’t going to request guests wear a mask, reported the New York Post.
Experts encouraged people to use “common sense” when doing gathering and follow covid-19 safety protocols.
Public health officials have advised against family and friends gathering. However, they know it will likely happen anyway. Therefore they are advising to keep gatherings very small and be sure to open windows, the New York Times reported.
“You don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Thanksgiving, but this may not be the time to have a big family gathering,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “That doesn’t mean no one should gather for Thanksgiving. It’s not going to be one size fits all. You’ve got to be careful. It depends on the vulnerability of the people you’re with and your need to protect them.”
Experts also say it’s actually best not to mix households at all and virtual Thanksgiving celebrations with loved ones are a much safer alternative.
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Though people feel safer in their homes than restaurants and public venues, research has shown homes are now a main source for spreading the virus. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed asymptomatic people infected more than half of their household members.
This is also due to the way ventilation works in homes, mechanical engineering professor Dr. Shelly Miller told the Times.
“I’ve been concerned that people are not completely understanding how ventilation in the home is different than ventilation in commercial spaces or schools or hospitals,” Dr. Miller said. “I want people to understand that their homes are generally not ventilated. If you have friends over for dinner and someone is infectious, aerosols can build up.”
“Everyone can try to reduce the number of contacts for at least the week before the event, and do the same after as well,” said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and associate professor in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Just trying, to the best of your ability, to be more conscious of the contacts you have before and after you gather can be a risk reduction strategy.”
Other strategies medical experts suggest in helping prevent the spread while traveling for Thanksgiving are spending the holiday outside if possible, wearing masks when not eating, using disposable hand towels, not sharing serving utensils and dishes, etc.
According to infectious disease experts, a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear to travel to see loved ones for Thanksgiving.
“The virus just takes time to replicate in the body to detectable levels,” Justin Lessler, a senior author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN by email. “You can get infected by just a few viral particles, but these will not be detectable until they have time to replicate to adequate levels to be detected.”
During the period when a person is undetectable, they can still spread the virus to others. Therefore experts advise quarantining for the prescribed 14-day period without running any errands. It means to stay home completely before going to visit loved ones.
“‘Grocery store’ and ‘quarantine’ don’t belong in the same sentence,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN. “People sort of feel like if you test (negative), you’re out of the woods. And you’re kind of not.”
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