With so many restrictions being placed on Thanksgiving this year, you can’t help but wonder what will this time next year look like? Will people feel bad about seeing relatives still and being in groups of more than 10 people? Will you wear a mask to the table?
It didn’t take long for medical experts to identify COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations as lagging indicators of communal surges.
The US is currently averaging more than 1,300 COVID-19 deaths per day, which is the highest daily count recorded since May. COVID-19 hospitalizations have also hit a record high bringing the national total past 80,000.
Thankfully, practitioners are much better at treating patient samples than they were at the beginning of the pandemic, and Pfizer and Moderna have both announced successful vaccine trials ahead of winter.
Still, public health officials are anticipating the worst between now and potential super spreader holidays toward the end of the year.
“With health experts deeply afraid Thanksgiving travel and holiday gatherings next week will fuel the spread of the virus, many states and cities are imposing near-lockdowns or other restrictions. California ordered a 10 pm to 5 am curfew starting Saturday, covering 94% of the state’s 40 million residents,” Fierce Healthcare reports. “Amid the bleak new statistics, Pfizer said Friday it is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, setting in motion a process that could make the first, limited shots available as early as next month, with health care workers and other high-risk groups likely to get priority, “
Tripadvisor reports that more than half of Americans – 56% – are planning to leave home for the holiday season and 11% of these intend to so by plane.
In case of emergency, experts recommend reducing your risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus by limiting bathroom time on airplanes to 10 minutes or less and only touching surfaces necessary for sanitation measures.
Research additionally suggests that viruses live on 10% of plastic trays frequently passed around passenger lines at the hand luggage X-ray station in airports.
The Biden administration has issued several guidlines to adhere to while visiting relatives for the holidays based on literature published by the CDC:
- Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart (about 2 arms’ length) from anyone who is not from your household.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
The public should try and limit gatherings that exceed 10 people.
Some have decided to work around traditional thanksgiving festivities through programs like Zoom. The question remains however, will the holidays be weighed down by similiar retrictions in 2021?
“I hope not. But my hope will be realized if we are successful in getting the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated so that the level of infection in the community is so low and there are so many protected people that the virus has no place to go. Better known as herd immunity,” Infectous disease expert, Dr. Fauci explained during the STAT Summit this week.
“If that’s the case and we do that by the end of this year, we may have a considerable degree of normality. Having said that, I think right now from what we’re hearing, is that’s aspirational but unlikely.”
So the challenge is two-fold. Whichever vaccine gets approved by the Food and Drug Administration will have to prevent clinically recognizable COVID-19 reliably enough to meaningfully reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
The second challenge will be to get enough of the general population to facilitate herd immunity.
“My feeling is: When my turn comes to get vaccinated, I will not abandon all public health measures. Clearly, there will be a much greater ease in dropping back a bit on the stringency of it. But to just say: ‘We’re done with public health measures,’ it’s not going to be for a while,” Dr. Fauci continued. “For those concerned, as I am, about the economy, about schools, about sports events, I think we’re going to be a major shift toward much more normality. But it might not be exactly the way it was in 2019.”