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Behaviors Social Distancing

Thanksgiving…

…is coming during the highest peak of COVID19 cases (and hospitalizations) the U.S. has ever seen. This holiday’s potential impact on transmission, hospital strain, and mortality cannot be understated.

Here are three published, peer-reviewed case studies that illustrate COVID19 transmission at family gatherings:

•In February 2020, a funeral was held for family in Illinois. The evening before the funeral, the index case (with mild cold-like symptoms) shared a takeout meal, eaten from common serving dishes, with two family members of the decedent at their home. At the meal, which lasted approximately 3 hours, and the funeral, which lasted about 2 hours and involved a shared “potluck-style” meal. The index patient also embraced family members of the decedent and others attending the funeral. Three days after the funeral, the same index case (who was still experiencing symptoms) went to a family birthday party. They embraced each other and shared food during the 3-hour party. Between the funeral and the birthday, 16 family members were infected and 3 died.

• Back in June, a family (two parents, two sons, and one daughter with a stuffy nose) traveled to a vacation home to meet with 15 other relatives. These relatives were from five households from several states whose ages ranged from 9-72. During this vacation, relatives did not wear face masks or practice physical distancing. Another 6 relatives (aunt, uncle, and four cousins) visited a few days later but stayed outdoors and maintained physical distance from the other 15 relatives. What happened? Well the stuffy nose was actually a COVID19 infection. She proceeded to infect 11 other relatives, 2 of which went to the hospital. The 6 relatives that stayed outdoors and physically distanced did NOT get infected.

• In January, a Chinese elderly couple celebrated the Chinese Spring Festival in public. Neither had symptoms when, a few days later, the couple’s daughter, son-in-law, and 2 grandchildren visited them. A few days after this visit, the daughter went to have dinner with another family unit. The grandma (who went to the Chinese Spring Festival) was infected with COVID19 without knowing it. She directly or indirectly infect all (but one) family members. One, of which, was admitted to the ICU.

We are all tired of this disease. But I hope these examples show you how easily this is spread, even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. With all the good news this week (vaccine, new task force, new antibody treatment) we know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We will be through these dark times. But, we aren’t at the end of the tunnel yet.

It’s time to re-evaluate your Thanksgiving plans. This may mean reorganizing (go to a park instead of a home), having conversations with family/friends to set expectations (yes this may be awkward), cancelling plane tickets (this will avoid spreading clusters), and cancelling plans (stick with immediate family). It’s hard. And heartbreaking. But it’s the reality of the situation.

Love, YLE

Data Sources:

Funeral/Birthday party: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6915e1.htm

Vacation: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6940e2.htm

Chinese family: https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/71/15/861/5810900

More from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/…/daily…/holidays/thanksgiving.html

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