The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today ‘strongly’ warned against Americans traveling to visit relatives and friends this Thanksgiving, amid a surge in hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases nationwide.
During a telebriefing earlier today, the agency’s COVID-19 incident manager, Dr. Henry Walke, said: ‘With Thanksgiving approaching our hearts and minds turn to visiting family and friends. Amid this critical phase, the CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period.’
Walke continued: ‘One of our concerns is people over the holiday season get together, and they may actually be bringing infection with them to that small gathering and not even know it.
‘We’re very concerned about people who are coming together sort of outside their household bubble.’
A coalition of seven Midwestern governors from both sides of the political aisle issued a similar warning today, penning an op-ed in the Washington Post urging Americans to stay home for the upcoming holiday stop the virus’ ‘devastating’ spread.
The warnings come as former CDC chief Richard Besser, now the CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said he believes the nation’s COVID-19 death toll could reach 300,000 by the end of the year if drastic measures aren’t taken.
‘It is absolutely mind-numbing to think that we have lost that many people — each individual representing a friend, a family member, someone whose life had value,’ Besser said.
‘I worry that if we don’t change what we’re doing, we’re going to be having a conversation before the end of the year about 300,000 people.’
The United States has recorded over one million new coronavirus cases in just the last seven days.
Since the pandemic began in March, the country has recorded a total of 11.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 250,000 deaths.
During his press briefing today, Walke warned that large indoor household gatherings this holiday season could make the situation even worse.
As consequence, Walke advised that all Thanksgiving celebrations should only include current household members when possible.
The CDC updated its guidelines before the briefing to update its definition of ‘household’ to people who have been living inside one’s home for the past 14 days, which could exclude college students and older relative.
The agency’s guidance is not a mandate, however Walke said the CDC’s advice not to travel is ‘strongly recommended.’
‘We alarmed,’ Walke said, adding that the country is currently experiencing an ‘exponential increase’ in cases’.
‘From an individual household level, what’s at stake is basically increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then hospitalized and dying,’ Walke said. ‘We certainly don’t want to see that happen. These times are tough. It’s been a long outbreak.’
With regard to those who do still decide to travel, the CDC recommends doing so ‘as safely as possible,’ which includes wearing a mask while in public, maintaining social distancing and washing hands often with soap and water.
Erin Sauber-Schatz, lead on the Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force at the CDC, added: ‘[We’re] further clarifying that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household.
‘If people have not been actively living with you 14 days before you’re celebrating, they’re not considered a member of your household and you need to take those extra precautions.’
The CDC’s comments come after seven governors, two Republicans and five Democrats, published an op-ed in the Washington Post that called on Americans to ‘stay home this Thanksgiving.’
Among the authors was Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan, Mike DeWine (R) of Ohio, Tony Evers (D) of Wisconsin, Tim Walz (D) of Minnesota, J.B Prizker (D) of Illinois, Eric Holcomb (R) of Indiana, and Andy Beshar (D) of Kentucky.
The coalition wrote that, ‘For eight months, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated American families everywhere. To fight this virus, governors across the country have listened to medical experts and worked around the clock to protect our families, the brave men and women on the front lines, and our small-business owners.
‘No matter the action we take, we understand that our fight against COVID-19 will be more effective when we work together.’
The governors said they were joining forces to come together urge families across the country to ‘do their part to protect themselves and their loved ones from the spread of COVID-19.’
‘When it comes to fighting this virus, we are all on the same team,’ the governors wrote.
In the Midwest, cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are skyrocketing.
On Wednesday, Michigan was officially labelled the fifth deadliest state in the US for COVID-19 and has now recorded the sixth most cases.
Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, on Wednesday told reporters that cases and deaths across the state continue to increase at an exponential rate.
‘We have the 10th highest hospitalization rate as percent of total beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the sixth highest number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU’ in the nation, Lyon-Callo said in a news conference.
State data show Michigan added 47,771 new confirmed cases over the last seven days.
The state has now had 303,000 cases of COVID-19 since March and 8,576 deaths.
The White House appears not to be very concerned however.
Vice President Mike Pence dismissed the rising rate of coronavirus cases as the media ‘crying wolf’ in a meeting of the White House task force on Tuesday.
Pence, holding only the second meeting of the Coronavirus Task Force this month, shrugged off the increased cases – more than 3 million infected and over 250,000 deaths.
He told members of the task force he thinks the media have been ‘crying wolf’ about the virus, leaving Americans less likely to take the latest surge seriously.