It's safe to say everyone is looking forward to the holiday season to mentally take a break from the reality of 2020, but as much as we want to escape, COVID-19 is still here.
Last week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said people should avoid traveling for Thanksgiving, but despite the warnings, many plans will go on as normal.
That's why doctors are reminding families to minimize gatherings and take safety precautions.
“I’m not encouraging people to isolate themselves completely, that’s not good for you, okay, but when you get together, please do it in a smart way and that protects all of us," said Dr. Joseph Chang, Parkland Hospital's Chief Medical Officer.
He said one of those ways is to minimize how many people show up to the dinner table and to eat outside, advice he's taking himself.
“I’m going to be gathering with my family however, we’re going to be doing it in two small groups and each group will only be about five people," said Chang. "I think that’s the right way to do this, is to do this smart, we will also, weather permitting, be eating outside."
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If eating inside with a larger group, Chang suggests wearing a mask.
"My statistics show that between 10 to 15% of asymptomatic individuals are carrying COVID-19, what that means is, one in 10, at least, are carrying COVID. If your group is 15 or 20 people, you can pretty much guarantee that somebody in there is carrying COVID and they don’t know it. these are real numbers folks no one is making these up," said Chang.
It's a reason other healthcare professionals are keeping their guest lists small.
"This year our Thanksgiving looks a little different, we are going to be staying home, we are only going to be celebrating with the people living in our house which is me, my husband and our two kids," said Dr. Arnaout, a pediatrician with Cook Children's at Forest Park in Fort Worth.
She said they plan on relying on technology to see extended family.
"We’re trying to keep safe, we’re trying to keep our beloved family members who are little bit vulnerable safer this year, and we will be talking to them on facetime this year," said Arnaout.
She too advises that people eat outside where there's good ventilation and to avoid sharing plates.
"It’s been found, I think in some studies, that if food is shared and handled over and over and if people are taking something out of a plate, there’s a higher chance of spreading COVID that way, what I believe is recommended is to create individual plates. One person creates individual plates for everybody, there’s less of a chance for spread rather than the buffet style that a lot of us do for Thanksgiving," said Arnaout.
Some families plan to get everyone tested before the holiday to ensure that they are COVID-free, but Dr. Chang said that's not always reliable.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I have said this many times, and I’m going to say it again, an asymptomatic test that is negative has about a 70 to 75% chance of being wrong. I’m going to say that again, if you have a negative test and you have no symptoms, that test is likely to be 75% chance of being wrong. That’s a big deal, having a negative test does not protect you, it does not protect your group," said Chang.
He believes the false sense of security has also contributed into the spread of COVID-19.
"If inside with a larger group, wear your masks those are things I’m asking people to do. I’m also asking people to, if you have a big group, to have serving utensils instead of everybody sort of sticking their forks and stuff, into the same pile of mashed potatoes," said Chang.
How to Avoid COVID-19 Infection:
The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. CDC always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
*Information shared from the Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
But to minimize any exposure, doctors are urging people to think of alternatives, especially as hospital bed counts continue to rise with COVID-19 patients.
"So this is why I and many other physicians are begging people to reconsider, it is not too late to change your plans, it is never too late to change plans, and being on the safe side is something that you can do this year so that next year we can all get together and see each other again.”
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.