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Friday, November 20, 2020 - Thanksgiving shaping up to be ‘a perfect storm’ for COVID infections, officials warn

Thanksgiving called ‘a perfect storm’ for COVID

Health experts urge Americans to stay home this year amid surge in infections

 


To avoid a Thanksgiving spike in COVID-19 infections, public health officials are urging Americans to keep their holiday observations small and intimate this year and to visit with relatives who live outside their household virtually instead of in-person. (Stock image)

 

By Mike Scott, mscott@stph.org

COVINGTON, La. – With COVID-19 cases surging across the country just a week before Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday added to a growing chorus of calls for Americans to limit their holiday gatherings to their immediate family this year in an effort to stop what health officials expect to be an explosion of infections in coming weeks.

“More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days,” the CDC wrote in a Thanksgiving advisory posted to its website. “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”

It went on to advise people to avoid traveling at this time and to resist the temptation to flock to stores for traditional Black Friday sales on the day after Thanksgiving.

Similar messages were distributed Thursday by any number of local officials, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper.

At St. Tammany Health System, which has seen its number of COVID-positive inpatients double in the past two weeks and more than triple since late October, Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Mike Hill said it all boils down to the same basic guidance experts have been giving for months.

“Look, this isn’t a mystery,” Dr. Hill said. “We know what causes the spread of COVID, and it’s social gatherings, especially those that are indoors. It’s lax mask-wearing. It’s failure to socially distance from others who don’t live in your household. So, this Thanksgiving has the potential to be a perfect storm as far as COVID infections are concerned unless people play it smart and stay home this year.”

On the state level, Edwards echoed those remarks, noting a sharp increase in COVID hospitalizations statewide in the past few weeks. Should those numbers continue to rise, he said, it may become necessary to re-implement some of the restrictions put in place in the early days of the pandemic last spring.

“We all have traditions that are dear to us. But this is not a traditional year, and we’re going to have to get creative in how we celebrate,” Edwards said in a statement.

He added: “Louisiana doesn’t want to go back to where it was earlier in the year or even where some of our neighbors are. … The people of Louisiana have already shown that they can flatten the curve and slow the spread: We have already done it twice before.”

The warnings from Edwards and others come less than a week before Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, which is next Thursday, Nov. 26.

As of Wednesday (Nov. 18), the state was reporting 929 patients hospitalized and under COVID care, an increase of 43 over day-earlier figures. That included 20 COVID inpatients at St. Tammany Health System’s Covington hospital.

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Visit STPH.org/COVID-19  for more information on coronavirus in St. Tammany Parish.