The speed at which Covid-19 infections are now accelerating could not have come at the worst moment in the United States: Thanksgiving time.
Many Americans have been looking forward to Thanksgiving all year long after spending months in isolation from their families because of coronavirus. This is the time of year to plan big dinners and when college students hop on planes to go back home. Now families are instead having tough conversations about whether to get together.
While the coronavirus should have been under control by now, every piece of data is showing that the virus is only getting worse and cases are surging. The pandemic has become intensified by the effects of the colder weather.
Newly confirmed infections in the U.S. have been at all-time highs of well over 100,000 per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The U.S. reported 166,555 recent cases this past Saturday, marking the second-highest daily number of recent cases so far, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Last week the AP reported that some researchers are estimating the nation’s overall toll will hit roughly 400,000 by Feb. 1. This is up from around 240,000 now.
“We face rapidly accelerating increase in Covid-19 cases across much of Europe, the USA, and many other countries across the world. It is critical to act decisively and urgently,” read an open letter published in The Lancet journal back in October. The letter was signed initially by about 80 of the top infectious-disease experts in the United States and around the world. Since then, hundreds of more have added their names.
As desperate as many are to see their loved ones, traveling and coming together for Thanksgiving is not a sensible idea right now according to infectious disease specialists. It is important that individuals do their part this holiday season to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and this may mean having to decline all the holiday dinners.
What would ordinarily be a time of preparing to have children and relatives fly in, people are now bracing for another lockdown. Several cities are easing back into coronavirus restrictions and institute mask mandates.
The city of Chicago issued a stay-at-home advisory last week, encouraging residents to stay home and only leave for school, work, or other essential needs. “Chicago has reached a critical point in the second surge of COVID-19, demanding that we undertake this multi-faceted and comprehensive effort to stop the virus in its tracks,” stated Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Other major cities like Los Angeles and New York could follow in Chicago’s footsteps as the holidays approach. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned parents to prepare their students to move to remote-learning once the citywide positivity rate, or the percentage of positive tests, hits an average of 3%. The city’s positivity rate currently stands at 2.57%.
In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted on November 13th that the state will “hit reset” and begin a statewide stay-at-home order this week. They instructed residents to stay at home unless venturing out for essential services. “New Mexico is at the breaking point. We face a life-or-death situation, & we must & will act to preserve the lives of New Mexicans,” the Governor wrote.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned about the risks associated with Thanksgiving celebrations this year, especially if people are traveling to see family that they don’t live with.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci revealed in October that his kids won’t be coming home this year because of fear of possibly spreading the coronavirus. “You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering,” Fauci said to CBS News.
“My Thanksgiving is going to look very different this year. I would love to have it with my children, but my children are in three separate states throughout the country and in order for them to get here, they would all have to go to an airport, get on a plane and travel with public transportation,” he added.
According to the CDC, the “lowest-risk” Thanksgiving celebration would be a small dinner only with people who live in the household. The agency has classified an outdoor dinner with family and friends in the community as “moderately risky” and a large indoor gathering with people from outside the household as “higher risk.”
Of course, everyone will make their own decisions and there is the possibility that some people will break rules and see family anyway, despite a lockdown.
On a brighter note, doctors are better equipped to treat severe cases, which means a higher percentage of COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are surviving. A vaccine also appears to be on the horizon with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer recently reporting that its experimental shots are 90% effective at preventing the disease.