CDC warns against Thanksgiving travel; urges small gatherings

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Cars line up in the afternoon of Nov. 5 as people wait at the Hard Rock Stadium COVID-19 testing site in Miami Gardens. As of Wednesday evening, there were 858,012 total cases in Florida and 17,300 deaths.

MIKE STOCKER/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL/TNS

BY TIM DARNELL
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION/TNS

ATLANTA — The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its Thanksgiving coronavirus guidelines on last week, warning against travel and recommending much smaller gatherings during the annual American tradition.

Thanksgiving travel is typically the nation’s busiest transportation day of the year. “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others,” the CDC said.

While the organization isn’t recommending canceling the holiday, it is recommending smaller dinners with people who live in single households; contact-free meal deliveries; virtual dinners; watching events on TV at home; and Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shopping only.

Heightened risk

Moderate-risk activities are listed as small outdoor dinners and small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place. High-risk activities are crowded stores, parades and large indoor gatherings.

The CDC said older adults and others at heightened risk of severe illness should avoid gathering with people outside their households.

Experts point to Canada, where Thanksgiving was celebrated Oct. 12. Clusters of cases tied to family gatherings followed. “This sucks. It really, really does,” Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said two weeks later.

Safety measures

Anyone traveling is urged to check travel restrictions, get a flu shot, wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing, among other measures.

The U.S. surpassed 10 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Nov. 9, the same day President-elect Joe Biden urged all Americans to wear a mask in an effort to contain the pandemic’s spread.

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine has been tracking the pandemic’s spread over the globe. New daily confirmed cases are up more than 60% during the last two weeks, to an average of nearly 109,000 a day. Average daily cases are on the rise in 48 states.

Biden, Harris briefed

The U.S. accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s nearly 51 million confirmed cases. U.S. coronavirus deaths are up 18% during the last two weeks, averaging 939 every day. The virus has now killed more than 238,000 Americans.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were briefed virtually Monday morning on the coronavirus pandemic by a task force of experts their transition team announced only hours earlier. Biden and Harris were then scheduled to hold hours of internal meetings about transitioning to the White House in January.

“We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives, American lives,” Biden said. “Please, I implore you, wear a mask.”

Tough months ahead

Biden said he wants to ramp up production of personal protective equipment and testing supplies, saying, “The bottom line: I will spare no effort to turn this pandemic around.”

Public health officials warn the nation is entering the worst stretch yet for COVID-19 as winter sets in and the holiday season approaches, increasing the risk of rapid transmission as Americans travel, shop and celebrate with loved ones.

“The next two months are going to be rough, difficult ones,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist and department chairman at the Yale School of Public Health. “We could see another 100,000 deaths by January.”

As the Democratic nominee, Biden made President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic a central focus of his campaign. But much of what Biden has proposed will take congressional action, and he’s certain to face challenges in a closely divided House and Senate.

“I’m not running on the false promises of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch. But I do promise this: We will start on day one doing the right things,” he said during a campaign event last month.

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