EDITORIAL: When it comes to COVID-19, Thanksgiving is no time to take a holiday

Posted 11/19/20

Throughout a long and somewhat dismal summer, there was hope that in post-election America we’d be in a better position both politically and — yes, it’s a word — pandemically.

Judge for …

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EDITORIAL: When it comes to COVID-19, Thanksgiving is no time to take a holiday

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Posted

Throughout a long and somewhat dismal summer, there was hope that in post-election America we’d be in a better position both politically and — yes, it’s a word — pandemically.

Judge for yourself about politics, but with each passing day, as we stride toward Thanksgiving, COVID-19 data shows more and more alarming trends. What was anticipated to be a long winter looks to get even longer.

Consider:

• In the U.S., newly confirmed cases are averaging more than 157,000 per day — up from 49,000 just a month ago.

• U.S. hospitalizations have increased 90 percent in that same time.

• Every state in the country, save Vermont and Hawaii, qualifies as a COVID-19 hotspot.

• Across the U.S., 16 states reported single-day infection highs as recently as Friday, and 30 states added more cases in the last week than any other seven-day period since the pandemic began.

• It was less than two weeks ago that the U.S. reported its first 100,000-case day. Soon — perhaps by the time you read this — we’ll have our first 200,000-case day.

• North Carolina seems to set new benchmarks just about every day, with highs for hospitalizations on Monday (1,424); the rolling average for new cases now nears 2,900 per day.

• In rural areas across the country, there are now more coronavirus cases per capita than in cities. And as cases continue to grow in big cities, rural healthcare systems may soon have no place to send infected patients for treatment.

• Everywhere, health care workers are overworked, stressed and burning out — at the same time as hospitalizations climb dramatically.

• 10% of the Secret Service’s core security team has been forced to quarantine because they either tested positive for COVID-19 or had close contact with infected co-workers — some linked to largely maskless campaign rallies held by President Donald Trump in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election.

This “third wave” is indeed frightening, but in the words of Eli Perencevich, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Iowa: “The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet.” And Gregory Schmidt, the associate chief medical officer at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, told ProPublica: “People in leadership are starting to say things in meetings like, ‘I have a sense of impending doom.’”

Plainly put, in the words of an analysis published over the weekend in the online publication The Bulwark, “what this data suggests is that over the past nine months, the United States has been quietly building momentum toward a huge fall/winter outbreak. The full burden of a mismanaged pandemic is now bursting upon us.”

There is good news. In the last week, we found out a vaccine being developed by Pfizer, now in late-stage trials, was 90% effective — bringing much relief on that medical front. And already this week, drug maker Moderna announced that preliminary phase-three trial data showed its own coronavirus vaccine candidate was more than 94 percent effective.

If it’s a race, though, we have to think about the role transmission plays. Colder weather is here, Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and — despite ample scientific and other tangible evidence to the contrary — some political leaders and voices of influence continue to pooh-pooh masks (or the existence of the coronavirus itself) as more people congregate together indoors. Even as states with stricter forms of mask policies and limits on gatherings are showing slower growth in positive cases compared to states with fewer restrictions, reckless public officials cry out “Masks are oppressive!” and fight back against government restriction. Leaders in some state call mask mandates and stay-at-home orders — measures used successfully in many countries to slow community spread — “totally and completely unreasonable.”

Which brings us to Thanksgiving.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read the story in this week’s edition about the pandemic and the upcoming holiday and safeguards you should heed. And you’ll want to think hard about the plans in your own household — and for your own family. “The virus,” the Chatham County Public Health Department rightly points out, doesn’t care about your family — it cares only about spreading.

“What’s important to remember is that when you are around someone, their exposures to COVID-19 become your exposures,” our story says, quoting interim Health Director Mike Zelek. “The virus doesn’t care if you are related. It wants to spread. We have seen family gatherings, locally and across the country, that have led to many new cases and, sadly, deaths. With the understanding that informal gatherings, even among families, are a main driver of the pandemic, it is important to limit your ‘bubble’ to those closest to you — your household.”

It’s serious. As one official said: People infected with COVID-19 over Thanksgiving could enter the morgue by Christmas.

Play it smart over the holidays. Enjoy a safe Thanksgiving, and make for a merry Christmas.

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