The safest Thanksgiving this year will be one enjoyed with the members of a person’s immediate household.
That was the guidance given by Ballad Health officials during their weekly COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.
“The only safe way to have Thanksgiving this year is to have dinner with your immediate household,” said Jamie Swift, chief prevention officer for Ballad Health.
“I know this is hard. I know it doesn’t make for a great holiday season,” Swift said, adding her extended family had planned a get-together that involved five households, but now each of those is having their own meal separately.
There are options for families to connect with each other through a phone call or video calling applications such as FaceTime or Zoom, she said.
“The feeling of your holiday being slightly diminished is nothing compared to the grief felt by the families of the people in this region that we have lost to COVID,” she said. “Their special days and holidays will always be a little dimmer because their loved one is gone.”
Swift said she has heard people share that they are concerned that it might be a loved one’s last Thanksgiving and don’t want to miss it because of the pandemic. “I challenge you to not let your Thanksgiving dinner be the reason that someone does have their last Thanksgiving.”
For guests traveling to join family members, the only safe practice would have been quarantining for 14 days paired with negative virus tests. With less than a week until Thanksgiving, that is no longer an option, Swift said.
Some of have said they are thinking of having a rapid test on the morning of Thanksgiving. But a negative test result is not an absolute guarantee that a person does not have the virus, because the test has a 15% error rate, she said.
The community is asked to forego the large family gatherings this year to avoid a rise in cases related to the holiday at a time when the health system’s resources are already stretched due to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Swift said.
An unpublished report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force linked the recent rise of cases in Tennessee to Halloween activities, she said, and Thanksgiving could bring another dramatic increase if precautions are not taken. Ballad Health has reported record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations in the past week.
CASES UP FRIDAY
Twenty-two new cases of COVID-19 were reported Friday for Greene County by the Tennessee Department of Health, bringing the number of local cases during the pandemic to 2,715.
There were no new deaths, hospitalizations or new cases reported in nursing homes in the county Friday.
There were 357 active cases of the virus in the county on Friday, down 20 from the previous report, according to the daily update.
Ballad Health reported that 220 people were hospitalized within its facilities with COVID-19 on Friday, with 39 in intensive care and 30 on ventilators. Eight more people had been admitted with coronavirus symptoms awaiting test results.
The positive test rate — reflecting people who tested positive for the virus among all those tested in the previous seven days — declined slightly on Friday for the region to 18.1%, according to Ballad Health.
In the 10 counties in Northeast Tennessee served by Ballad Health, 315 new cases were reported by the Department of Health on Friday. Sullivan County had more than a third of them with 135 new cases.
The number of the active cases in the 10 counties was 3,115, according to Friday’s state report.
Across the state, 74 additional deaths were reported on Friday from the virus, bringing the death toll from the virus in Tennessee to 4,202.
The Department of Health reported 3,444 new cases for the state in Friday’s report. Since March, 331,532 people have contracted the virus in Tennessee.
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 185,000 new cases Friday. The federal agency reported that 251,715 Americans had died from the virus as of midday Friday.
Given the increased spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control also advises that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is with people in your household.
The CDC asks people to consider hosting a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live in the household, scheduling a time time to share a meal together virtually and possibly sharing recipes.
Other activities recommended for the holiday are preparing traditional dishes and safely delivering them without contact to family and neighbors, sharing a gratitude activity with family and friends, watching Thanksgiving Day parades, sports and movies on television at home or playing games. The CDC also advises shopping online sales after Thanksgiving and using contactless service for purchased items or shopping in open air markets, staying 6 feet away from others.
If people plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside their household, the CDC advises steps be taken to make the celebration safer. These include observing the normal virus preventative measures such as wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away from others and frequently washing hands.
If people attend a dinner in someone else’s home, they are advised:
- to bring their own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils;
- wear a mask, and safely store their mask while eating and drinking;
- avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen, and
- use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.
Those hosting a meal are advised by the CDC to:
- have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community,
- limit the number of guests,
- have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together,
- clean frequently touched surfaces and items between use,
- if celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows,
limit the number of people in food preparation areas,
- have guests bring their own food and drink, and
- if sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.