Despite unrelenting surges of coronavirus cases across much of the United States, nearly 40 percent of Americans are still planning to have Thanksgiving dinner with ten or more people, according to a new survey conducted by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The national survey, which took responses from more than two thousand individuals, also found that a significant percentage of respondents admitted that they won’t be partaking in mitigation measures to help limit the spread of the virus.
One-third noted that they won’t ask guests to wear face masks or coverings at the holiday gathering, and 27 percent of respondents indicated that they won’t practice any form of social distancing. Moreover, 20 percent added that they won’t turn away guests even if they exhibit coronavirus-related symptoms.
With an eye on containing the troubling outbreaks seen in most states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already recommended limiting travel and large-format, in-person holiday gatherings this year.
“Thanksgiving is a time when many families travel long distances to celebrate together,” the agency says on its website. “Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.”
Individuals should also keep in mind that “gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area.”
The CDC added that even “small household gatherings are an important contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases.”
Dr. Jorge Salinas, a hospital epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, agreed wholeheartedly with the agency’s recommendations.
“We know that COVID is in our communities, and that the spread of COVID is happening everywhere. The outbreaks are no longer limited to bars or meat-packing plants or nursing homes but are happening everywhere. And we know that the best way to stay safe is to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently,” he told The National Interest.
“We recommend not gathering in groups larger than ten people—even that can be pushing the boundaries—while wearing a mask. For this reason, spending the holidays with extended family members may not be a safe option for many this year.”
Other medical experts are urging people to find creative ways to communicate virtually with family members and create treasured memories via sharing gifts and treats by leaving them on doorsteps or driveways.
“We must approach this holiday season unlike any in living memory,” Dr. Ian Kim, a physician and a professor at the University of California Davis School of Medicine, told the National Interest. “I recommend that you stay home and don’t travel for the holidays. Join your family online instead of in person.”
According to Dr. Jill Foster, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, if an individual absolutely must join a family gathering in person, there are key steps to take soon afterward.
“They should assume that they have been in contact with someone at the dinner who had the potential to transmit the virus,” she told the National Interest. “They should develop a plan to be tested in five to seven days from their exposure and be careful of whom they expose themselves to in that time period until they are cleared. If their test is positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, they should immediately let anyone else know that was at the dinner.”
Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, noted that each individual’s action this Thanksgiving holiday can directly affect the pandemic’s course this winter.
“We’re going to look back at what happened during this holiday season and ask ourselves, ‘Were we part of the solution or were we part of the problem?’” he said in a press statement.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.