WASHINGTON, DC — Even with the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus down across Virginia in the past week, health experts have advice for those looking forward to holiday celebrations: It's not a good idea.
The state has recorded a total of 173,371 cases confirmed to date, including 999 new cases on Sunday. But a model from the Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia predicts that a new surge of coronavirus cases will peak the week before Thanksgiving.
If increases across the state continue, researchers expect 202,040 total confirmed cases by Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 26. Statewide, new case growth has increased in the past week, with reproduction rates above 1.0 in most regions; it is just under that rate in northern Virginia.
"This upward trend coincides with national trends, and trends in Europe," the Biocomplexity Institute said in its newest model. "While too early to be certain, this may suggest that concerns regarding the onset of cold weather were founded."
Even with a 20 percent increase in cases, the institute said hospital capacity will not be exceeded in any Virginia region through the end of the year. The experts said residents should continue with social distancing and infection control.
In an interview with CBS Evening News' Norah O'Donnell, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases based in Maryland, raised concerns about the virus spreading in the 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.
"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.
Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. "We don’t know if one type of travel is safer than others; however, airports, bus stations, train stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces," VDH officials said. "These are also places where it can be hard to(keep 6 feet apart from other people). Consider various risks for getting or spreading COVID-19, depending on how you travel.
Virginia does not have any quarantine requirements for people arriving in the Commonwealth from other U.S. or international locations. But wearing ais required for any person 10 years or older while inside public buildings in the state.
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 Virginia for the upcoming holidays, experts suggest:
When around others, take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day (once in the morning, once at night) and check for fever. Also, watch for cough or trouble breathing.
If you start to feel sick, isolate yourself at home. If you have symptoms and want to be tested, please contact your healthcare provider. Your provider may collect samples to test you or help you to find sampling sites in your area. Learn more about what to do if you feel sick.
If you participated in higher risk activities or think that you may have been exposed before or during your trip, take extra precautions (in addition the ones listed above) to protect others for 14 days after arrival or return:
Here are examples of activities and situations that can increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19:
Going to a large social gathering like a wedding, funeral, or party.
Being in crowds — for example, in restaurants, bars, airports, bus or train stations, or movie theaters.
Traveling on a cruise ship or river boat.
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 Friday.
In the United States, more than 7.9 million people have been infected and more than 217,000 people have died from COVID-19 as of Friday. The U.S. has only about 4 percent of the world's population but more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country.