Virus Outbreak Thanksgiving

It's going to be a Thanksgiving unlike any other in our lifetimes as the COVID-19 virus rages at alarmingly high rates in nearly every state in the country.

"We so strongly recommend that you only gather with those that live in your house this year, and we know that that's really, really hard to do," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health.

Tuesday, the state officially limited private gatherings to just 10 persons, hoping voluntary compliance will achieve less spread of the virus over the holiday season.

"We're not going to be knocking on people's doors to see how many are dinner for Thanksgiving," said Governor John Carney.

"We just really are concerned about the impact that social gatherings related to Thanksgiving are going to have," said Rattay, as the state battles some its highest numbers of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. 

Hospitalizations in Delaware stand at 153 persons. 

"We're not necessarily in the position we wanted to be with cases rising,"  said Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik.

With the CDC officially advising against travel for Thanksgiving as virus concerns take hold, people are altering their Thanksgiving plans, seeking smaller turkeys and less extravagant table settings and sides. Magarik suggested a Zoom dinner.

"I think we've all become pretty proficient on Zoom, Facebook, and other means of electronic communication, so you can share gratitude and recipes with friends and family via Zoom," she said.

Zoom also announced it would be lifting its 40-minute cap on meetings for free users on Thanksgiving Day, according to media reports.

Magarik also recommended you make dishes for family, friends, or the greater community and arrange for contact-free delivery of foods to their homes or community centers, if volunteering is often a part of your Thanksgiving. Plus, you can always watch sports or take part in a virtual 5K right from your own household.  

If gatherings were to include people from outside your household, against the state's recommendation, Rattay said masks are a must.

"It's very awkward to think about wearing a mask if somebody's in your home, right? But we strongly recommend that if you do have somebody over to visit or likewise, you keep a mask on at all times, stay six feet away, be outside as much as possible," she said.

College students, who are returning to homes in the region, are also strongly encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.

"There's a risk that we're going to get a lot of spread from these folks coming into the homes of their families," explained Rattay.

Rattay recommended students quarantine for at least two weeks before they go home. Knowing college students, that's highly unlikely. The next best thing?

"They really should all get tested before they go home," she said. "When they arrive home, wear a mask when they're around others. Ideally, get tested several days after getting home."

Any student who tests positive will be encouraged to isolate on campus before they can travel or detail arrangements of their safe travel home with the local department of health, according to recommendations from the regional coalition of governors, which includes Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

"There’s no sugarcoating it: this will be a difficult winter," said Carney in a written statement. "We are seeing rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in our region and across the country as we enter the colder months. The holidays present a significant challenge. I’m thankful for the cooperation in our region, and will continue to urge Delawareans to do what works. Wear a mask. Don’t gather with anyone outside your household. Stay vigilant."

Upon returning home for Thanksgiving, many college students will stay home through mid-January until the second semester begins, with remaining classes and finals for many colleges and universities being held virtually to prevent further travel and potential spread of the virus.

Rattay also recommended that once students return home, they stay home and not reunite with high school friends.

"Young adults love to be around their high school friends...this is just not the year to do this in person, so we hope that parents will help support this as well, which, again, we know is very difficult," she said.