GEORGIA — As Georgia's fatality toll for the coronavirus passes 7,500 deaths with more than 337,000 total cases, health experts have offered guidance for those looking forward to holiday celebrations: It's not a good idea.
This holiday season will look different than before the coronavirus pandemic, said Georgia PIRG. Whether Georgians can safely gather with family depends on the rate of transmission of COVID-19 in your area, precautions that families take before and during the holiday gathering, and whether the state has better testing infrastructure to detect cases early.
On Sunday the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 1,554 confirmed new cases of coronavirus, 51 additional deaths, and 133 new hospitalizations.
"If we want to see our families or attend religious services for the holidays without fear of contracting or spreading the virus, we need to abide by and normalize preventative behaviors such as mask-wearing, dramatically increase the amount of testing we are doing across the country, and offer testing not just for diagnostic purposes but also for screening purposes," PIRG said. "Screening tests for SARS-CoV-2 are used to identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people and prevent the spread of the virus."
In an interview with CBS Evening News' Norah O'Donnell, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, raised concerns about the virus spreading this fall. He said people should be careful "about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition."
That includes holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving, which is right around the corner.
"You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you're pretty certain that the people that you're dealing with are not infected," Fauci said.
The Centers for Disease Control urged residents to avoid large gatherings and typical Thanksgiving celebrations in favor of smaller dinners and virtual gatherings.
Holiday travel isn't advised because it poses a higher risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is best, the experts said.
If you do travel, the CDC wants people to be aware of the risks.
High-risk activities include:
Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving.
Participating in or being a spectator at a crowded race.
Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.
Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place.
Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn't involve contact with others
Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday
Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home
Consider the mode of transportation. "Traveling by plane, train or bus can mean standing in lines and sitting less than 6 feet from people for long periods of time."
If you're traveling by car and must stop for gas, food or bathroom breaks, decrease your risk by consistently wearing face coverings during travel and continuing to wash your hands.
If you are hosting a gathering:
Host as many activities outdoors as possible.
Be reasonable: Consider how many people you can safely host while maintaining distance and safe practices.
Ventilation: Open windows as much as possible to increase air circulation.
If you or relatives are coming in from out of town, limit your exposures in the two weeks before you travel.
Seating arrangements: Keep members of the same household together; separate households as much as possible.
Limit the number of people in smaller areas of the home like the kitchen.
Consider spreading the gathering into multiple rooms.
Serving: If serving buffet style, remind those using shared serving utensils to wash their hands before they eat. Consider serving food already plated.
Holiday shopping or host gift shopping:
Shop at off-peak times
Arrange for store pickup
If you travel outside of Georgia for the upcoming holidays, health officials suggest:
Any resident returning from out-of-state or any out-of-state traveler should either get tested for COVID-19 promptly upon arrival in the state or within 72 hours before travel to the state.
Out-of-state visitors should be tested within 72 hours prior to arrival and to cancel travel if they receive a positive result.
Visitors waiting for their test results should stay at home between the time of their test and their arrival in the state or to self-quarantine at their hotel.
Any resident who travels to a state with a COVID-19 test positivity rate above 10 percent should get tested and self-quarantine at home until the test result is received.
Globally, more than 39 million people have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 1.1 million people have died from it, Johns Hopkins University reported Sunday.
In the United States, more than 8.1 million people have been infected and more than 219,000 people have died from COVID-19 as of Sunday. The U.S. has only about 4 percent of the world's population but more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country.