To limit virus spread, CDC advises Americans against Thanksgiving travel

The CDC advised against traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday to limit the spread of coronavirus and protect vulnerable Americans. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
The CDC advised against traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday to limit the spread of coronavirus and protect vulnerable Americans. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Rethink traditional Thanksgiving, Georgia’s top health official says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday urged Americans to avoid travel over Thanksgiving and to keep holiday gatherings contained within their households because of heightened risk of the coronavirus.

The new guidance comes as the virus rages across most of the country, and as cases and hospitalizations in Georgia have started to climb.

“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC said on its website. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”

Within hours of the new CDC guidance, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a similar advisory.

“The surge of COVID-19 infections in Georgia and across the country mean we must rethink our idea of a traditional Thanksgiving this year,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in a news release. “Each family must assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19, especially among elderly or medically fragile individuals, as they weigh the decision to host or attend a holiday gathering. Everyone needs to follow the guidance of wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing your hands frequently. And get a flu shot.”

Thanksgiving travel is expected to be down this year because of the pandemic. But the new government warnings come as many Americans have booked travel and accommodations for the holiday week and as many college students prepare to return home.

Forty-eight states — including Georgia — were listed in the red zone, or the most severe segment, for new cases in the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report, dated Sunday.

The task force report warned of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread, particularly in social gatherings.

Georgia fared better in the report than all but three states in terms of the rate of new cases, but the trendlines are worrisome. The seven-day rolling average of new confirmed cases in Georgia has more than doubled since Oct. 2 and the rolling average of people currently hospitalized in the state is up by more than one-third since Oct. 12.

On Thursday, Georgia reported 2,735 net new cases of the coronavirus, 835 new probable cases as determined by rapid antigen tests and 40 confirmed deaths. To date, 396,641 confirmed cases of the disease have been diagnosed in Georgia, along with 40,515 probable cases determined by antigen tests and 8,569 deaths.

DPH recommends Georgians bring their own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils if attending a gathering outside their home and to wear a mask when not eating. The guidance also suggested using single-use condiment packets and dressings and disposable food containers and dinnerware.

If hosting, DPH said it is safer to do so outdoors with a limited number of guests and to disinfect commonly touched surfaces between uses. If sharing food, the state suggests to have a designated server.

See the full list of recommendations on the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html.

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