I thought it was a good time for us to talk about the latest news about COVID-19. Although there is good news on the horizon, the current news is not good at all. We will be talking in the weeks to come about the good news, including vaccines, but we will not be safe from this virus for a few months yet. I know we are all tired of the sacrifices that we are making in this pandemic, but we cannot let our guard down. Our lives and the lives of those around us depend on it. Today I want to talk about some of the latest information and talk about the upcoming holiday.
This is real.
I hate that I have to say this, but here goes. This virus is not a hoax. It is not fake news. This is a serious virus that has killed over 256,000 people in the US. The number of daily new cases in the US is the highest it has ever been, and the death toll is growing by the day. While it is true that most people who have mild to moderate illness from COVID-19 do recover quickly, some people are experiencing longer term issues.
Some of the patients who have recovered from serious illness, or sometimes even those who have had mild to moderate initial symptoms, have shown lasting damage to the heart or lungs, leading to chronic heart failure or long-term breathing problems, even to the point of requiring lung or heart transplants. Some have had neurologic complications such as strokes, seizures, Guillain-Barre syndrome (a temporary paralysis due to nerve damage). There are several other complications that have been documented as well.
Wearing a mask is not a political statement.
Those of us in the medical profession have never considered anything about this virus to be political. We have followed the reliable, objective evidence as it becomes available, to make medical decisions and recommendations.
One thing that is clear from the evidence is that wearing a mask or face covering does significantly decrease the spread of this virus. Initially, we thought that the mask only protected those around the mask wearer, but more recent evidence indicates that wearing a mask protects both the wearer of the mask and those around us. All of us should be wearing a mask whenever we are outside of our own home, especially when we are indoors. If you are outdoors, and far away from others, it is not necessary to wear a mask. However, if you are indoors, you should have a mask on. If you are outdoors and within 6 feet of others, you should have a mask on.
The only statement that you are making by wearing a mask is that you care about your neighbors and community in addition to yourself. That is something that we all should be able to agree on.
What should you do about Thanksgiving dinner?
Due to the widespread, high rate of infection across the country, relatively small family gatherings are already significantly contributing to the spread of this infection. Just think what a bigger family gathering can do. No one wants to be responsible for bringing COVID-19 home to Mom or Grandma.
Based on the situation as it stands in most of the country at this time, we should all limit our Thanksgiving gatherings to our immediate family members that live full-time within our household.
College students who have been away at school are not considered “within the household” because they have not been living at your home. If you have a college student returning home, they should have a COVID test before coming home, isolate when they get home, and test again 5 days later. This Thanksgiving will be the first time that I have not been able to spend the holiday with my children. Even though it makes me sad to think about, it is the right thing to do.
Consider alternative Thanksgiving activities.
Instead of hosting a dinner for your extended family, consider a virtual meal or gathering. My family likes to play games after a holiday meal, so we have found some games that we can play together virtually. You might be surprised at how fun that can be.
Plan some fun activities for your immediate family, such as watching the parade. Even though there will be no guests at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year, they are going to televise the balloons traveling down the street, along with some prerecorded performances. You can also watch sporting events or maybe the National Dog Show, watch a movie together, or play a fun game together.
If you have neighbors who will be alone on Thanksgiving, you can safely prepare some traditional Thanksgiving dishes and deliver them in a way that does not involve direct contact. Leave it on their porch and let them know it’s there.
If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your immediate household, take some steps to make the holiday safer.
Here are a few things that you can do if you plan to have guests for Thanksgiving dinner.
Consider having guests get COVID-19 tests prior to the event, although you must remember that the test is not 100% reliable. Don’t let a negative test give you a false sense of security.
Limit the number of guests to 10 or less.
Have dinner outdoors with tables separated by 6 feet. If you must gather indoors, open windows to improve air circulation and set up extra tables to space guests apart.
Insist that everyone wear masks except while eating.
Talk to your guests ahead of time so that they know your expectations.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Encourage frequent hand washing and have hand sanitizer available for use.
Limit the number of people in the food preparation area, especially if it is indoors.
Consider having guests bring their own food and drinks.
If you are sharing food, have one person serving food, rather than each person serving themselves from the same dish. Or consider making smaller, individual serve options. For instance, maybe you can make your dressing/stuffing or casseroles in muffin tins with cupcake liners, rather than a casserole dish. Then everyone can simply take one, with no worry about contaminating the rest of the dish.
If you have not lost any loved ones during this pandemic, you should be thankful for that.
We should keep those who have lost loved ones in our thoughts over the holiday.
I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
If you have any questions about Thanksgiving and COVID-19, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor