As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday asked Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving and only celebrate with people they live with.
Especially for those planning to visit places with a high number of cases or areas where hospitals are overloaded with patients, the CDC recommends making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or rescheduling travel to a later date. That suggestion also applies to anyone who is visiting high-risk individuals or traveling by bus, train or plane.
“Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving,” the CDC said Thursday.
The agency’s latest guidance to stay home for Thanksgiving reminded those who do choose to attend a family gathering or travel for the holiday to follow the safety measures it has recommended for months.
They include wearing a mask in public settings, washing hands frequently, checking travel restrictions, getting a flu shot before going and staying 6 feet away from anyone who is outside a person’s household.
“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Dr. Henry Walke, COVID-19 incident manager for the CDC, said in a press briefing on Thursday.
Health officials stated that extra precautions should be taken if family members in attendance include those who have not been living in the household for 14 days prior to a celebration.
Expressing concern that people may unknowingly bring infection to the gatherings they attend, Walke added, “What is at stake is the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then being hospitalized and dying around the holidays.”
Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC’s Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force, told reporters that the agency decided to provide new recommendations due to the alarming level of new cases reported over the week.
More than 1 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the country this week, the agency said Thursday.
“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” Sauber-Schatz said.
About 250,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 since January and more than 11.4 million have been infected with the respiratory disease, according to CDC data.
States reported an additional 1,869 deaths on Thursday alone, well above the recent average of about 1,200 deaths per day. The CDC projects that between 276,000 and 298,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 by Dec. 12.
The agency predicted last month that 250,000 Americans would be dead by Thanksgiving weekend, but that grim milestone was reached this week.
Read more here about how to host a virtual Thanksgiving.
— By Erika Williams, CNS