Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Staying Safe During Thanksgiving and Black Friday
This Thanksgiving-themed square appeared on the calendar quilt that the 5Bee Quilt Guild stitched in 2019.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020



One doctor described this year’s trip to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving as a tragedy waiting in the wings.

“You’re going to say, ‘Hi’ at Thanksgiving, then you’re either going to be visiting her by FaceTime in the ICU or planning a small funeral by Christmas,” said Mark Horne, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association. “Don’t share air with anyone outside your immediate family.”

Blaine County surpassed 1,200 cases on Sunday. It now has 1,206 cases with six reported on Sunday and four on Monday.

Dr. Martha Taylor, systems medical director for St. Luke’s Urgent Care, isn’t quite as blunt. But she has joined the chorus of local doctors urging Wood River Valley residents and other Idahoans to soft-pedal Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping this year to ensure that hospital officials don’t have to start deciding who gets a bed and who doesn’t a week or two from now.

Would you rather not see your family members for six months or would you rather be isolated and not be able to see them and then they're there in the ICU and there's nothing you can do about it, she asked during a virtual press conference on Monday.

"There's a temporary isolation because you're trying to keep yourself and your family members safe and then there's the mandatory isolation that happens when you wind up hospitalized and you can't visit your friends and family and nor can they visit you."

The novel coronavirus has an incubation time between three and 14 days. Consequently, many of those who are already traveling to the Wood River Valley and elsewhere around the country may be contagious, even though they have no symptoms, said Taylor.

Idaho recorded 819 new cases on Sunday and set yet another record with 1,437 more on Monday for a total of 93,090 cases since the pandemic began. Nineteen Idahoans died from COVID on Sunday and Monday, raising the state's COVID death toll to 866.

Cousins coming from elsewhere may say, “I’m not sick right now. I think I’ll be safe.” But then they spread it to relatives, who infect others in the community. And, when the visitors go home, they’ll infect others in their community, Taylor said, adding that those who travel should quarantine upon their arrival home.

It’s not necessarily any safer with friends or relatives who live a mile down the road, she added, as they may have been around individuals who are contagious.

And don’t think a negative test result gives you a green pass to visit your family at Thanksgiving. It can take days before the infection replicates in your body enough to show up on a test. That means you could have gotten infected yesterday but are not showing it. Or, you could get infected between the time you take the test and the time you hug grandmother.

“Some folks think we can just take vulnerable people and put them in a bottle, put a cork on top of it and protect them until a vaccine shows up,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.  “It just isn’t possible.”

This is a year to be creative, while having Thanksgiving only with the family members you live with, Taylor said.

Taylor says she and her family are having an anti-turkey Thanksgiving. And they’ll share it with their extended family over Zoom.

“My family members and I over the last three to six months have hosted virtual dinner nights where we've logged into Zoom meetings and had food and conversation with each other. I know it’s not the same as being able to hug your relatives, but it’s a safe way to do it and still engage and feel that family togetherness during the holidays,” she said.

Another creative way to see relatives without putting anyone at risk is to invite them over for pumpkin pie on the patio for a short period of time with everyone distanced and masked. Just make sure everyone brings their own dessert or that one person doles out the dessert—and the whipped cream.

One man traced his COVID-19 bubble, thinking it was pretty small. And it turned out to be enormous.

Opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times that his only close contacts each week are his wife and kids. But his kids are in a learning pod with seven other children and his daughter attends a weekly gymnastics class.

Their families numbered nearly 40 people, including children in day care or preschool. Once Manjoo counted everyone, he realized that visiting his parents for Thanksgiving would be like asking them to sit down to dinner with a hundred-plus people. Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/20/opinion/covid-bubble-thanksgiving-family.html?referringSource=articleShare

Many retailers have tried to spread Black Friday specials out over a period of weeks to avoid the crowds that besiege stores the day after Thanksgiving. Taylor said she could sympathize with those who feel like they need to get out of the house.

But, again, denying yourself this year in favor of online shopping or shopping at uncrowded boutique stores like those in Sun Valley protect yourself and the community while freeing up hospital beds, she said.

“Most of the clusters of we’re seeing happen after gatherings. We’ve seen that in the Wood River Valley where there’s a wedding and a week or two later the volume of COVID explodes. Again, it’s Black Friday and you’re not going to be able to achieve distance. Frankly, I don't know if there's a way to do it in person safely.”

If you have yet to buy your turkey and fixings, shop very early in the morning or late in the evening when the fewest people are in the store. Or, utilize a grocery’s pick-up or delivery service.

St. Luke’s Magic Valley and St. Luke’s other hospitals have already paused elective surgeries until the first of the year to free up beds. Taylor said she and other doctors have discussed setting up field hospitals.

“But you have a point where you’re at maximum capacity. There are no more ventilators, there are no more staff because even the staff can fall ill,” she said.

If social distancing cues and masking and travel restrictions are self-imposed in the next few weeks, can see timelines being significantly sped up to the point where by the holidays we'll be at maximum capacity and just physically not be able to take more patients, she added.

“As callous as it sounds, we could be forced into a corner of having to rank order, the severity of patients that could potentially all be admitted. But if you have three beds for 10 patients, how do you choose? That's a decision no physician wants to make.”

It won’t matter if a person has a heart attack or COVID, there’s still one bed for two patients, she added.

“To tell parents: I know you live here but we’re going to have to transport your baby elsewhere is very difficult to hear.”

Taylor said St. Luke’s gets a bunch of respiratory illnesses, such as influenza and pneumonia in normal years. But the numbers don’t begin to mirror what doctors are seeing now.

“When we’re hospitalizing those between the ages of 20 and 35—this is a totally different disease than we’ve seen before.”

Sending patients to hospitals in neighboring states can’t be counted on as the hospitals on the east side of Washington and Oregon and the north side of Utah are filled to the brim, Taylor said.

Utah hospitals have begun an informal rationing of care as record numbers of new patients are admitted every day. Cancer patients have been sent home from The Huntsmen Institute with tubes in their chest as the cancer center takes overflow patients from the university hospital.

The hospitals filled as the state was averaging 1,500 to 2,500 new COVID cases a day. And doctors worry the system will break as they see cases of infection approach 4,000 a day.

One doctor told the Salt Lake Tribune that the situation was like water lapping at the top of a dam.

The state has called in 200 additional nurses, but treating COVID cases is very time consuming compared with other patients. And alerts are frequent.

“We’re still providing good care. I’m proud of our care. But it’s not what we would normally offer,” one doctor told the Tribune.


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