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Officials warn that family gatherings could spark COVID-19 surge

News Staff Writer

Alabama health officials warned during a Monday, November 23, press conference that conducting normal family Thanksgiving celebrations could cause a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases across the state.
In fact, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mary McIntyre, such gatherings could represent the final get-together for some.
“If you want to live to see another Thanksgiving, it may mean stepping back this Thanksgiving,” McIntyre said. “This is one Thanksgiving out of many to come, so we have to make some changes that will hopefully allow us to have many more in the future.”
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris echoed those sentiments, saying he’s worried the lack of caution during the holidays will create one of the most widespread surges to date in cases of the novel coronavirus.
“This is a time for people to be vigilant,” Harris said. “This is a time to be careful and to be thinking about what you’re doing,”.
McIntyre urged those who go ahead with family gatherings to limit guests to no more than 10 people, to enjoy the holiday meal outside if possible and to use disposable plates, cups and utensils.
Harris said his family plans to cut back on its Thanksgiving Day celebration.
“I want to be with my family this Thanksgiving, but we’ve decided we can’t do the normal Thanksgiving we would do that involves people from different states and multiple generations,” he said.
Harris said current infection rates are rising sharply in the state and the holidays will likely make it worse. He said the current mortality rate is around 1.5 percent, about 15 times higher than the average mortality rate of the flu.
The state health officer said more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases per day are being reported statewide.
“We don’t have to have a terrible December, but I am worried about what we’re going to see,” he said.
Harris said the state will implement a plan to distribute vaccines by December 7. Healthcare workers will be the first in line to get the vaccine, followed by the elderly and other individuals in high-risk categories.
He added that initial shipments of the vaccine could reach Alabama by mid- to late December, depending upon how soon the U.S. Food & Drug Administration grants its approval.

COVID-19 Stats

Confirmed cases: 236,865
Deaths: 3,472
Escambia County
Confirmed cases: 1,969
Deaths: 31
Atmore Community Hospital
Confirmed cases: 634
D.W. McMillan Mem. Hospital
Confirmed cases: 276
Nursing homes
No new cases were reported among residents or staff of Atmore Nursing Center or West Gate Village.

Sources: ECHCA twice-weekly report, Tuesday, November 24, 2020; CMS report, week ended November 8, 2020.