This Thanksgiving is quite a different start to the holiday season.
With coronavirus cases exploding across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against traveling, urging Americans to celebrate in their own households instead and warning that if families get together over the holidays, they could inadvertently bring the deadly disease with them.
A virtual gathering, or a celebration with only the members of a person’s own household, “is the safest choice this Thanksgiving,” the CDC’s guidelines said.
Los Angeles County has not experienced daily COVID-19 case numbers like these since late July, during the last surge that resulted in many people becoming very seriously ill and losing their lives to the virus.
“Its going to be a slightly different season than we previously have had,” said Dr. Tasha Dixon, family medicine lead at LA County’s Martin Luther King Outpatient Center. “Consider cancelling holiday plans. Don’t go out mall shopping on Black Friday.”
Dixon recommended that gatherings be held outside, especially if visitors are not members of the household. “It’s going to call for some creativity. We are advising that no more than three separate households, no more than 15 people, be in the same space.”
“If you’re going to have a family gathering, make sure only one person is fixing the food,” Dixon added. “Make sure you’re handwashing and keeping a distance. Even consider having separate tables outside. And really avoid crowding around the TV to watch the football game.”
She and her colleagues are very concerned about where are numbers are, Dixon said, and they urge residents to do their part to slow the transmission of the virus.
“There are so many different ways we can all be creative,” Dixon said. “Zoom parties, there are different apps for families and fun games. You can facetime.”
County Department of Health Director Dr. Barabara Ferrer told residents that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” with a coming vaccine. Dixon agrees.
“We’re optimistic,” she said “We’re hoping that this will help, but, truth is, we need to survive now. Focusing on that fact, we still have to survive until the vaccine is given to every American. The flu shot is available now, however, and we should be giving everybody the flu shot this year. We’re excited about a vaccine, but still, everyone needs to get their flu shot.”
Healthcare professionals agree that getting a flu shot will keep additional people out of hospital facilities, which are already stressed with pandemic patients.
“We know how to prevent the flu and that’s by getting your vaccine. One in 250 people in L.A. County are currently infectious. One in six have had COVID in the past. That number as doubled in last two to four weeks,” Dixon said. “I urge everybody to consider the vaccination when it comes out, but get your flu shot yesterday.”
When a vaccine is available for the coronavirus, Dixon is hopeful that people will take that opportunity seriously.
“Working in a predominately African-American and minority area, something I see everyday is this attitude against a COVID-19 vaccine,” Dixon said. “There’s a bit of a tenuous relationship there. There is a lot of mistrust with health system. But we’re excited and all trying to do the right thing.”
While testing is essential to identifying people who are positive for COVID-19, being tested, even frequently, in no way prevents a person from becoming infected, or protects others from that person if they are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. Testing only provides information about one moment in time, and does not mean they will not become positive for the virus the next day or week.
“A negative COVID test today does not mean a pass to play for tomorrow, or days to come,” Dixon said. “Testing is great, but it is not enough to prevent spread and transmission. If you do go out with family or friends, think about isolating when you get home.”
Its been suggested, that when possible, use delivery services for groceries and medicines or assign only one person from the household to take care of errands and shopping.
After engaging in risky activities and exposure to a crowd of people who weren’t wearing masks or distancing, a self-quarantine for 14 days is advised.
“The sacrifices we’re making now will get kids back in school get everyone back to a new normal, hopefully by next year,” Dixon said. “One can hope.”