Doctors warn Thanksgiving could be a super spreader event for COVID-19, data shows what Utahns may do for the holiday

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, health officials continue to plead with Utahns to stay home for Thanksgiving. And surveyed data shows what part of the state Utahns plan to dine with those in and/or outside of their household.

An interactive New York Times survey gives an idea as to how Americans plan to spend their Thanksgiving holiday.

In Utah, this data suggests less than 40 percent of Utahns – in a number of communities – plan to spend Thanksgiving with people from outside their household.

And some areas in Northeastern Utah suggest more than 50 percent of people will get together with others.

Of those who will leave home for the holiday, data shows 55% in Vernal; 30% in Logan and St. George; 35% in Green River; 22% in Price; 21% in Salt Lake County; and 14% in Hanksville.

The surveyed data has more counties and cities information online.  

“We know that any gathering, no matter how small is going to increase the rate of transmission of COVID-19,” said Intermountain Healthcare Dr. Eddie Stenehjem.

If people plan to spend the holiday with those outside of their home, Stenehjem said no matter how few people, the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 is much more likely.

“What the real risk is that you’ll be welcoming somebody into your home that may be completely asymptomatic,” he said, “and may develop symptoms of COVID-19 in the coming days or remain fully asymptomatic and they come into your home.”

And gatherings could bring more positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“With such high community prevalence, we will see spread occurring at Thanksgiving Day gatherings which will then further increase community transmission, which will then further increase hospitalizations,” Stenehjem said.

He said the actions of Utahns are critical this Thanksgiving. If people do not listen to public health guidance, Stenehjem said it could put more strain on the state’s already over-burned healthcare systems.

“We feel the consequences of doing this and not being safe is going to be absolutely dire on our healthcare networks,” he said. “And we plead with you to please stay within your family and stay within your homes tomorrow as we celebrate.”

Stenehjem said Utah hospitals are preparing for what could come next.

“We are preparing for that, we have plans for that and our healthcare workers are up to the challenge,” Stenehjem said. “We really hope, however, we see this peak occurring in early December with then a decrease in hospitalizations because people will abide by our public health guidance as it pertains to the Thanksgiving holiday.”

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