Today is Thanksgiving, and despite public health experts’ pleas for everyone to remain home on account of the pandemic, not everyone will. Naturally.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted Tuesday night that only 12% of Dallas residents plan to gather for Thanksgiving with people outside their homes, citing a New York Times interactive map. Those numbers could actually be much higher, though; as this past election proved, media polls definitely aren’t foolproof.
The holiday comes as the county’s health department on Tuesday reported an additional 1,716 new coronavirus cases and seven deaths. Meanwhile, Texas Health Resources is warning that they will run out of North Texas ICU beds within a week, according to WFAA.
Even still, airports nationwide are experiencing the highest number of travelers this week since the pandemic began in March, according to NBC-DFW, and DFW Airport and Dallas Love Field have prepared for heightened traffic.
So for those who are rolling the dice by tucking in for turkey with non-household members, Dallas County leadership is begging you: Please, for the love of God, do it safely.
Wednesday, Jenkins told the Observer he’s asking people to keep celebrations limited to those who live in the same household. It’s an inconvenience, Jenkins said, but ordinary Americans made similar sacrifices during World War II when they avoided buying new tires because rubber needed to go to the war effort.
“Everyone engaged in patriotic sacrifice for the greater good,” Jenkins said. “These sacrifices that we’re talking about now are much less onerous than our forefathers and foremothers have experienced.”
When in a group of 10 people, there’s a 35% chance someone is infected with COVID-19, Jenkins wrote in a press release Tuesday. Double that group number and there is “near statistical certainty” that someone at the gathering is coronavirus positive.
So with that in mind, proceed with the utmost caution. Be sure to check this Thanksgiving-within-a-pandemic safety guidance released by the Dallas County Public Health Committee earlier this month.
If you haven’t already hopped on a plane, it’s not too late to reconsider traveling for Thanksgiving. It’s safer to take one’s own vehicle to a destination rather than public transport, but if doing the latter, try to go during non-peak hours.
Bring along a personal sanitizing kit that holds extra masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
Do not travel if showing any signs of sickness, including fever, cough, or other symptoms, or if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results. Those who have been exposed to others who are COVID-positive should also nix travel plans.
The safest bet this Thanksgiving is to cancel plans with those who live in separate households. When hosting guests, wipe down and disinfect all “high-touch” surfaces such as counters, faucets and bathrooms before they arrive.
Skip hugging. Keep away from people by at least 6 feet and always wear a mask except when eating or drinking. It’s not too late to pivot from meeting in person to having a “computer gathering” on Zoom.
Place hand sanitizer throughout the space and keep the party limited to two hours or less. Congregate outside if at all possible; if not, encourage ventilation indoors by turning on fans and opening windows.
Eat outside and spread out from one another; if that’s not possible, then space out around the house by more than 6 feet apart. The holiday safety guidance also suggests eating in silence when indoors and making a “silent game competition,” although that option admittedly seems less palatable than the others.
In addition, limit the number of people who handle and serve the food and avoid buffet-style dining. Skip communal snacks such as chips and dip and provide single-use disposable dishware and utensils.
Ask guests to stay in a hotel or other off-site accommodation. If that’s not possible, prepare sleeping areas and bathrooms by cleaning them vigorously and stocking them with cleaning wipes and sprays. Provide extra masks, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, single-use items and paper towels.
Open windows in the house to allow for better indoor ventilation.
Avoid going to grocery stores during peak hours and opt for curbside pickup or delivery options when possible. Don’t blow out candles on a cake because that could spread COVID-19 germs.
Also, with Christmas around the corner, there are those who will be hankering to bust out old Yuletide carols. Resist the urge: Caroling also heightens the risk of spreading coronavirus because of the increase in aerosols and droplets produced by singing. If people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving safely, then that “puts us in a horrible situation going into Christmas,” Jenkins said.
Normally during Thanksgiving, Jenkins said he’ll celebrate with family and friends. It’s a special time of year for him because on that day in 1993, he was in a serious car accident.
This year, Jenkins said he'll be taking the time to reflect on who he’s thankful for from home — including "health-care heroes," essential workers and schoolteachers — and encouraging North Texans to do the same.
“I’m convinced that even in the midst of all of this, we have a whole lot to be thankful for,” Jenkins said.
P.S. It’s not too late to cancel.
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