A Reason to Give Thanks: Caution This Year May Mean Everyone Makes It Back to the Thanksgiving Table in the Future

a reason to give thanks

Intermountain Healthcare leaders are encouraging people to follow Gov. Gary Herbert’s directives on mask wearing and social gatherings until at least Nov. 23, and they’re hoping caregivers will avoid extended family gatherings through Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays.

The hope is that by making sacrifices this year, we’ll ensure that everyone can be back around the table again in the future. These changes can also help Intermountain caregivers by reducing the spread of the virus and relieving some of the pressure on our hospitals.

Transmission is 'off the charts'

“We anticipate that we’re going to continue to have very high rates of COVID-19 over the next three weeks,” infectious diseases specialist Eddie Stenehjem, MD, said in a Facebook Live discussion last week.

“We have to realize that our transmission rate of COVID-19 in the state of Utah is off the charts; it’s in the top 10 in terms of states. It’s really, really hot. We know that if you get together in a group of people that’s large, the chance of transmission of COVID-19 is very high. We really need to think about that as we go into Thanksgiving, just because our health system can’t tolerate any more than it currently is receiving right now.”

Keep celebrations close-knit and careful

Dr. Stenehjem recommends celebrating Thanksgiving with just the people who live in your home.

“That is the best and safest answer, period,” he says. “We know that if you have large family gatherings, we will see transmission of COVID-19. It sucks because this is a time to get together with family and give thanks. And that's what we all love to do on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and right now that is not something that we can do safely. And we really need to think twice about those family gatherings, so I'd recommend that the safest thing you can do is to have a family Thanksgiving at your home, and not invite your extended family over, unfortunately.”

He offered a few tips for those who choose not to heed that advice:

  1. Wear masks inside when you aren’t eating.
  2. Have separate tables for each family in attendance.
  3. Celebrate Thanksgiving outside if the weather allows. It’s safer than gathering inside.
  4. For two weeks before Thanksgiving, each family who plans to attend should quarantine themselves. “If there’s no other socialization in those two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, you may be able to reduce the chance that you are bringing COVID into that gathering.”

Beware the 'Bubble'

Dr. Stenehjem says some people suggest staying within a “COVID bubble” with the people they plan to share Thanksgiving with, but that strategy only works if the people in the bubble don’t have other bubbles they share with other people, including work places.

“If the people you are intermingling with during COVID also have other people that they’re mingling with, and they have different COVID families, well that COVID bubble just got a lot bigger,” he says.

CEO Marc Harrison, MD, said in a video posted this week that Intermountain caregivers need to lead by example and support the measures that the governor has put in place.

“Together we can make a difference, not only in the health of our neighbors but in the attitudes of our communities,” he said. “I have great confidence that by working together we are going to get through this huge challenge. Together we will prevail. Together we will be stronger.”

Read more about Gov. Herbert’s directives.

Hear Dr. Stenehjem’s full interview.