On Thanksgiving, protect yourself and others so you can celebrate next year

More than any other American holiday, Thanksgiving is focused on connections: Family and friends coming together to give thanks and share a meal. Many of us  – lonely after months of coronavirus-forced isolation, emotionally battered by a divisive election season  –  feel we need those connections more than ever. 

The temptation is almost overwhelming to believe that travel can be safe and that holiday  gatherings are OK if everyone is careful.

PAT RICE:Volusia-Flagler: Keep Thanksgiving from becoming a coronavirus super spreader event

But this just isn’t true. Even if everyone keeps their masks on, even if everyone gets tested right before they travel, it’s not safe to crowd people together in an enclosed space for hours. The virus is airborne, and spreads further when people talk or laugh. It lingers on surfaces. It’s transmissible through hugs and even handshakes.

The Centers for Disease Control recommendation for safety this Thanksgiving is straightforward: Limit gatherings to the people you live with, or already see frequently. Connect with everyone else via phone or through online platforms like Zoom. In the weeks following Thanksgiving, take extra care whenever you are out in public, with the understanding that many people who didn’t take precautions could be visiting the same stores, offices and restaurants as you  – and could be contagious even without symptoms.

If you want a live-action model of the danger, take a look at what’s been happening in Canada over the past month. That country celebrates Thanksgiving in early October. Over the subsequent six weeks, Canada has seen a dramatic increase in the number of new coronavirus infections, from about 2,000 per day in mid-October to 4,792 on Sunday. The number of deaths per day is climbing even faster: On Oct. 11, the seven-day average was 19 deaths per day. As of Sunday evening, that number was 72. And public health officials are unequivocal: Many of those new infections are tracing back to Thanksgiving celebrations.

That’s despite the fact that Canadians are not nearly as likely to travel for Thanksgiving  – leaving top health officials terrified of what might happen closer to Christmas.  In a briefing earlier this month, Prime Minister pleaded with Canadians to plan on staying home: “This sucks,” he said. “It really, really does.”

U.S. health officials are frightened, too. Across the country, we’re already seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases. Sunday, the seven-day average of new cases per day was at 171,376; compare that to Sept. 23, when the seven-day average of new cases was 41,884. That’s a 309 percent increase over two months. Florida’s spike is less dramatic, but still more than 175 percent over the same period, with a seven-day average of 7,602 as of Sunday night, compared with 2,757 Sept. 23.

This isn’t news anyone wants to hear. That’s particularly true for the active seniors who have moved to Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns counties from other parts of the country and know they are missing out on big family celebrations “back home.” We all feel the sting of isolation more keenly during the holidays  – including our editor Pat Rice, who wrote Sunday about his decision to remain distant from his sons this Thanksgiving.

But someday  – probably not by Christmas, but someday soon  – this pandemic will be tamed through a combination of vaccines and more effective treatments. It will be safe, once again, to negotiate who’s responsible for rolls and who brings the pumpkin pie, to plan large, joyful get-togethers.

That joy will be dimmed, however, if in gathering we must first mourn those who were lost to a disease that right now is intractable and very dangerous. It will be hard. It may be lonely. But it’s just one day, and not worth risking loved ones’ lives over. 

Read original article here.