With Thanksgiving a week away, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a series of guidelines to help ensure the safety of those celebrating the holiday during the COVID-19 pandemic. And if the CDC has its way, celebrations this year promise to be extremely different from past years.
According to the CDC, the lowest risk for contracting the highly infectious virus or spreading it is simply celebrating Thanksgiving in your own home with members of your household and/or virtually with extended family.
The first steps listed include wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others you do not live with, and washing your hands.
When attending a gathering, the CDC suggested taking steps like bringing your own food, avoiding going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared, and using single-use options, like disposable eating utensils and plates.
When hosting a gathering, the CDC suggested having an outdoor meal, have guests bring their own food and drinks, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
The CDC also provided a list of safer Thanksgiving activity options like hosting a virtual Thanksgiving meal, watching holiday programming on television, or shopping online for after Thanksgiving sales.
Infectious disease experts are warning of a convergence of COVID-19 and influenza as the temperature drops and colder weather sets in.
Texas and Anderson County have seen a rise in infections recently.
The main guidance, according to the CDC, is assessing the levels of COVID-19 infections in communities to determine whether to postpone, cancel or limit the number of people at a celebration or whether to attend certain activities. If there are high infection rates, the agency recommends limited gatherings.
If you are going to host a Thanksgiving dinner, the CDC recommends organizing an outdoor event with family and friends from your neighborhood.
"Gatherings with more preventive measures, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented," the CDC advises.
Holiday activities with moderate risks for catching the coronavirus include attending outdoor sports events with coronavirus safety measures in place.
High risk holiday activities include those where the probability of catching or spreading the coronavirus is greatest, the CDC said.
Large, indoor gatherings like dinners or parties, especially with people from outside your immediate family, pose the highest risk.
"Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings," the agency said. "Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors."
Gatherings that last longer are more dangerous than those that are shorter, and the more people, the higher the risk.
Shopping in crowded stores and malls before or after Thanksgiving is another high-risk activity.
Attending crowded public events, such as sporting events or parades, is not recommended.
Using alcohol or drugs can cloud judgment and increase careless behavior as well, the CDC said.
"Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others," the agency stated.
If you do plan to travel, take as many precautions as possible. Wear a mask, engage in social distancing by staying at least six feet away from others, wash your hands frequently, avoid anyone who is sick and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
The CDC's holiday guidelines are not meant to replace any local or state mandates on the pandemic, the agency said.
As of Tuesday, Nov. 17, Anderson County has had 1659 positive cases according to Net Health. Of those case 55% are white 24% Black 20% Hispanic and 1% other, with 724 being male and 935 being female.
Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston said that in the recent two days of testing 17% of those tested in the county tested positive. Johnston added that anyone tested was not required to have symptoms to be tested and that those numbers mean that for every 100 people in Anderson County 17 have COVID. As of Wednesday, Nov. 18, 20 people in our local hospital with the virus a sharp increase from the two earlier this month. Tuesday, Nov. 17 there were 29 new cases in the county. On Wednesday, Nov 11,, our Trauma Service Area had 8.58% of all hospitalizations admitted for COVID, Tuesday, Nov. 17 our TSA had 12.76% of all hospitalizations admitted for COVID.
Johnston warned with this spike that if precautions are not taken during the holidays the local numbers and statewide numbers will soar.
Anderson County is located in TSA G with a population estimate of 968,611. Total staffed hospital beds in TSA G are 2,775 with 697 of those available. Available ICU beds are 29 and available ventilators are 289. Lab confirmed COVID-19 patients currently in TSA G hospitals is 362.