Coronavirus: Public Health recommends against Thanksgiving gatherings

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County is recommending against hosting and attending Thanksgiving gatherings as the area continues to see a significant increase in cases.

Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper said if people still gather, they need to follow health guidelines, such as wearing a mask, keeping distance between people and limiting the number of people at gatherings.

Cooper noted that people can still gather with those in their household or prepare food and deliver it to friends and family in an attempt to celebrate the holiday safely.

“It’s ultimately about protecting each other,” he said.

Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge said she realizes it’s difficult to limit contact with family and friends over the holidays, but it’s important to slow the spread of the virus.

“We owe it to them,” she said. “Because any of us could be a carrier and not know it.”

Previously, Montgomery County has seen a jump in cases two weeks after a holiday.

“Now we’re heading into Thanksgiving and the reality is, if we don’t change our behaviors and we continue to gather like we traditionally do we will see a significant increase in cases within Montgomery County following the Thanksgiving holiday,” Cooper said.

That increase would add to the burden that hospital workers are already facing in the middle of a surge.

“What we do now and this week has a direct impact on hospitals and their staff,” said Lisa Henderson of the Greater Dayton Hospital Association.

Over the last three weeks, hospitalizations have doubled in Montgomery County, she said. However, the biggest capacity issues at hospitals isn’t space, it’s staffing.

“The community spread is impacting each of those staff members,” Henderson said.

Dodge noted that while hospitals have been doing a great job keeping up with the surge, the public cannot expect healthcare workers to do so for an extended period of time.

On average, the county is reporting 366 news cases a day and has already recorded 6,700 cases this month, Cooper said. So far this month the county has reported more than 6,700 cases.

“We are seeing rapid spread throughout all communities in Montgomery County,” he said. “If we don’t change our behaviors that’s just going to continue to elevate during the month of December.”

Hospitals aren’t the only sector seeing a staffing shortage. Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Services Center, said schools acoss the region are also being impacted by community spread.

“With all the community uptick in cases, we’re going to have an uptick in numbers,” she said. “Due to the quarantine protocols that exist, we are all being faced with tremendous staffing shortages.”

Schools are seeing shortages with aides, transportation workers and bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teachers.

With concerns that the county will see additional increases cases from the holidays, school administrators are looking at the calendars and trying to plan ahead.

“Each of the school administrators are taking into account what’s happening in their communities in their school districts,” Cox said. “You’re going to see calendars that have been completely redone.”

Some schools will continue with in-person learning while others are pausing instruction throughout the entire holiday, she noted, stressing that it’s important for families to continue to check with schools for updates and changes.

Last week, Public Health signed a stay-at-home advisory, asking Montgomery County residents to stay home as much as possible through Dec. 17 to slow the spread of the virus.

“I think less contact and making your circle very small is what’s necessary in order for us to save lives. And that’s really the message here,” said Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County board president J. Michael Sims speaking Wednesday at a special board meeting.

Under the resolution people are advised to only leave home for essential activities, such as work, getting groceries or food or seeking medical care.

Montgomery County has the fourth highest number of total coronavirus cases in the state. As of Monday, there have been 19,636 total cases, 1,815 hospitalizations and 225 deaths reported, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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