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Step up to the plate for pandemic safety on Thanksgiving

No one outside the quarantine bubble should show up at our gatherings, as much as we would love to see them.

A “Please keep your social distance” sign is displayed at the food court in a grocery store in Arlington Heights Friday, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

This is a year to be home for the holidays — as in staying at home.

Medical experts are telling us to limit Thanksgiving festivities to immediate household members. No one outside the quarantine bubble should show up, as much as we would love to see them. Let’s heed the professionals’ wise advice, even as the Moderna company on Monday announced a second vaccine that early data show to be 94.5% effective.

A recent Ohio State University survey disturbingly showed 38% of respondents planned holiday get-togethers of more than 10 people, and that many of those people aren’t planning to wear masks or engage in other protective measures.

Shrugging off the pandemic is a huge mistake. COVID-19 is surging everywhere. A million U.S. cases were recorded in just the past week. Illinois has 10% more hospitalizations than last spring’s peak. Hospitals are devoting more beds and wings to COVID-19 patients, but there are only so many nurses, respiratory therapists, doctors and other health care professionals. Last spring, Illinois was able to bring in health professionals from out of state, but now those other states are experiencing their own surges.

Last week, the Illinois Medical Professionals Action Collaborative Team warned Illinois is set to exceed its intensive care bed capacity by Thanksgiving. We’re at a point where everyone has to get serious about safety measures. Ninety percent of us must wear marks. If fewer do, the virus is going to keep spreading. Eighty percent won’t cut it.

Health professionals are telling us bars and restaurants are no longer the chief centers of virus spread. Instead, it is people socializing in homes. It’s hard not to see family and friends, but we simply have to get through these next few months safely. We need to keep ourselves alive and healthy amid a viral sea.

Let’s face it. Up to now, as a nation we have done a poor job of confronting the virus. As a result, it is spreading exponentially. Nurses and doctors are getting exposed as their family members bring the virus home.

No protections are foolproof. All we can do is reduce the risk. Remaining outside helps. Staying 6 feet apart helps. Wearing masks and washing hands help. But even all those measures together do not guarantee protection. A one-time test, which misses many positive cases, won’t ensure a safe visit.

A new risk is that we are entering the flu season, and flu symptoms are very similar to those of the novel coronavirus. Some hospitals already are reporting people who have both the both the flu and COVID-19. Anyone who has not had a flu shot should get one now.

It’s natural to feel tired of COVID-19 restrictions. But spreading the virus is a poor way to celebrate the holidays.

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