Many months have passed since the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported in the U.S., yet the Trump administration continues to take no meaningful action against the pandemic. State officials are taking the issue into their own hands and implementing stay-at-home orders amid other safety measures, including limiting indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people. Some states are even considering reimplementing lockdowns put in place at the start of the pandemic as cases surge across the U.S.
With holidays like Thanksgiving looming, health officials fear the number will only increase as people gather together from all across the country. According to a recent survey from Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center, almost 40% of U.S. residents say they plan to gather in groups of 10 or more people this holiday season. Additionally, the same survey found that one-third of these individuals said they would not ask others to wear masks during holiday gatherings and 27% said they would not practice social distancing.
The survey consisted of over 2,000 respondents from across the country. While the majority agreed they would practice COVID-19 safety regulations during their gatherings, a significant number admitted that they would not. For months leading into the holiday season, health professionals have encouraged Americans not to gather for Thanksgiving and other holidays in big groups to avoid further spread. The survey sheds light on the fact that despite these recommendations, Americans across the country still plan to host big gatherings for Thanksgiving.
"Given the fluid and dynamic nature of what's going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said last month. "You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you're pretty certain that the people that you're dealing with are not infected."
At the time of Fauci’s suggestion not to gather largely for Thanksgiving, 37 states were seeing an increase in cases across the U.S.; that number has now risen to 47. As of this report, more than 11 million people in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 246,000 have died as a result, according to The New York Times database. Nationwide, states are seeing an increase in cases while the U.S. as a whole averages more than 150,000 cases a day, an increase of 81 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
Hospitalizations across the country are also at a record high, with many states fearing they will once again reach capacity. According to the COVID Tracking Project, hospitals in the U.S. have seen an increase of more than 50% in less than two months. At least 47 states have seen an increase in hospitalizations, with 22 states at their highest numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began, Daily Kos reported.
But Fauci isn’t the only one who has recommended against large Thanksgiving gatherings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Thanksgiving is a time when many families travel long distances to celebrate together,” and “travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.” With individuals gathering from all over the country, and many from places with high COVID-19 numbers, a spread is inevitable.
“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?’” Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at the university’s Wexner Medical Center, said. “When you’re gathered together around the table, engaged in conversation, sitting less than six feet apart with your masks down, even in a small group, that’s when the spread of this virus can really happen.”
Experts aren’t telling Americans to cancel their Thanksgiving plans. Instead, they are recommending they limit the numbers of those attending and abide by social distancing regulations and mask-wearing. Additionally, those who are traveling should reconsider their plans and think about the potential spread that can result.