Traveling for Thanksgiving? Please Don’t, Health Officials Say
Around 50 million Americans are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday next week. Public-health officials are begging them to stay home.
As the pandemic enters its ninth month in the U.S., many families are grappling with whether to meet up with friends or family for traditional celebrations. But the holiday comes at a particularly precarious time in the current virus surge, and doctors and government officials say even gathering with one other household is too much of a risk.
The U.S. has reported an average of 157,318 new cases a day over the past week, more than double the number of daily cases reported at the height of the summertime surge. Hospitalizations are continuing to hit record highs, taxing health-care systems in Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and elsewhere.
The warning has taken on a more urgent tone in recent weeks, shifting from officials discouraging travel and large gatherings to outright pleading with the public to stay put and stay away from others.
Leaders in states including New York, New Jersey and Michigan have put limits on the size of gatherings in recent days, identifying one culprit of the latest surge as small, seemingly innocuous get-togethers. As community spread becomes prevalent, though, even those more muted festivities, like a baby shower or brunch, are potentially fatal.
“Getting together with your family via Zoom to ensure your loved ones stay safe is the right thing to do,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a video message posted online Tuesday. In the message, Mr. Beshear joined six Republican and Democrat Midwestern governors to emphasize the current threat and urge people to take precautions.
Last year, around 55 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving. AAA forecast a 10% decline in holiday travel this year, to 50.6 million. Air travel is expected to drop by half—but that still means about 2.4 million people making their way through airports.
“For the holidays, I do really worry that people just don’t understand how serious it is right now,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist and professor at George Mason University. “What we’re seeing in the U.S. is basically uncontrolled growth in cases.”
乔治梅森大学(George Mason University)流行病学家、教授萨斯基娅·波佩斯库(Saskia Popescu)说：“在节日期间，我真的很担心人们不知道现在的情况有多严重。”“我们在美国看到的情况基本上是不受控制的增长。”
James Lawler, an infectious-disease physician and executive director at the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said he hopes the real threat of turning patients away from emergency rooms as hospitals reach capacity in coming weeks would make people change their behaviors—but he isn’t optimistic. “I wish I had that same confidence in that that I had six months ago,” he said.
传染病内科医生、内布拉斯加州大学医学中心(University Of Nebraska Medical Center)全球健康安全中心(Global Center For Health Security)执行主任詹姆斯·劳勒(James Lawler)说，他希望未来几周医院人满为患时将病人从急诊室拒之门外的真正威胁能促使人们改变他们的行为，但他并不乐观。他说：“我希望我能像六个月前那样有信心。”
“The data’s becoming very clear,” said Sarah Van Orman, chief health officer for University of Southern California Student Health, noting that a major cause of the recent surge in cases is small gatherings and, particularly, “indoor environments where people are eating, drinking and talking loudly with their face coverings off.”
南加州大学学生健康中心首席卫生官萨拉·范·奥曼(Sarah Van Orman)说：“数据变得非常清晰。”她指出，最近病例激增的一个主要原因是小型聚会，尤其是“人们在室内环境下吃喝，大声交谈，不戴面罩。”
Something that looks a lot like a family meal.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance saying any Thanksgiving celebrations including people outside of the household should be small and outdoors. The agency also recommended people stay home, saying travel increases the chance of getting and spreading Covid-19.
Enforcing mask wearing, social distancing and other guidelines for small, celebratory gatherings has been a challenge for public-health directors—especially as the pandemic wears on.
“It is a tough message. And it’s tough because people think that you’re infringing on their family or their rights,” said Randy Evetts, the public-health director in Pueblo County, Colo. “But really, we’re trying to protect their families or their co-workers or others from the spread.” Last week, the county shifted into a more restrictive tier established by the state due to growing infections.
Widespread pandemic fatigue has led some Americans to grow tired of adhering to effective prevention strategies, adding to officials’ concern about group events.
“People get bored. But the virus doesn’t get bored,” said George Rutherford, an epidemiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “Put off gratification a little while longer.”
If two households are going to celebrate together, Dr. Rutherford recommends they do so outside and at two separate tables. No buffets, either. And masks should go back on right after the final bite.
President-elect Joe Biden said Monday that public-health officials he had consulted recommended Thanksgiving gatherings of five people, and certainly not more than 10.
“Let’s save lives,” said Mr. Biden. “I just want to make sure that we’re able to be together next Thanksgiving, next Christmas.”
Some colleges and universities have ramped up Covid-19 testing ahead of the holiday, encouraging students to check if they are contagious before getting on planes and bringing the virus home with them. The University of Arizona conducted 34% more tests in the week ended Nov. 13 than it did in the prior-week period, promoting what it is calling a “testing blitz.” The State University of New York system is requiring all on-campus students—about 140,000 people—to be tested within 10 days before their departures.
一些高校在春节前加大了新冠肺炎的检测力度，鼓励学生在登机前检查自己是否具有传染性，并将病毒带回家。亚利桑那大学(University Of Arizona)在截至11月13日的一周内进行了比前一周多34%的测试，宣传其所称的“测试闪电战”。纽约州立大学(State University Of New York)要求所有在校学生--约14万人--在离校前10天内接受测试。
Many are shifting to online instruction for the final stretch of fall semester, then administering finals remotely rather than bring students back to campus.
The Montgomery County Board of Health in Pennsylvania voted last week to shift public and private schools to virtual learning through Dec. 6, allowing a weeklong buffer after Thanksgiving that could limit the spread of infections in classrooms after any gatherings.
宾夕法尼亚州蒙哥马利县卫生局(Montgomery County Board Of Health)上周投票决定，将公立和私立学校转向虚拟学习，直至12月6日，允许感恩节后有一周的缓冲时间，这可能会限制任何聚会后感染在教室里的传播。
“We know people are going to get together, even though they shouldn’t,” said Barbara Wadsworth, a member of the county’s board of health and the chief nursing officer at Main Line Health, a hospital system in the Philadelphia suburbs.
费城郊区的医院系统Main Line Health的首席护理官芭芭拉·瓦兹沃斯(Barbara Wadsworth)说，“我们知道人们会聚在一起，尽管他们不应该聚在一起。”瓦兹沃斯是费城郊区卫生委员会的成员，也是主线健康公司(Main Line Health)的首席护理官。
The decision wasn’t popular with local parents, but Ms. Wadsworth said it was necessary. “We felt like this was what we should do,” she said. “It’s a short term intervention that might have some very long, sustaining, positive effects.”