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State officials: COVID-19 could ruin Thanksgiving

COVID-19 has ruined life for many since March, and now it could ruin Thanksgiving.

“We know that folks are done with COVID and looking forward to the holidays, but COVID isn’t done with us and doesn’t take holidays,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, the state’s deputy secretary of health for COVID response.

Officials even suggested that those who wish to spend Thanksgiving with family should essentially quarantine for the two weeks prior, even for a small, outdoor gathering.

Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and officials said Tuesday that any in-person gathering is risky. The state is urging residents to wear a mask around every person who does not live in their household, stay home as much as possible, limit the size of any social gatherings, even Thanksgiving dinner, and to always stay home if sick.

With the holidays approaching, officials are bracing for a continued increase in cases, along with higher rates of hospitalizations, which they say could overwhelm the state’s health care system. The state had recorded six-consecutive days of more than 1,000 new positive cases as of Nov. 10.

If coronavirus numbers don’t start dropping, tightening up on restrictions is possible.

“We do not want to take further actions that will further hurt our economy,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state’s health officer, “but if we continue on this trajectory, at some point we may need to.”

David Postman, Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff, didn’t say Tuesday if rollbacks restrictions were in the state’s future, but he noted that people have the power to flatten the curve by wearing masks, practicing social distancing and foregoing social gatherings.

He said restrictions would not be necessary if the state as a whole “recalibrated” and renewed their resolve to take the virus seriously.

“That is so much better for everybody than shutting down the economy,” Postman said.

State Department of Health data shows the rolling seven day average of new cases was 807 per day in late October.New COVID cases for November are already being reported at higher rates than at any previous point during the pandemic. Nov. 5 already has 1,489 confirmed cases, the highest single-day number thus far.

Kitsap County had 42 cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period in the middle of October for a new pandemic high of 107.3 cases per 100,000. King County is confirming close to 400 cases per day, and hospitalizations there are up 30 percent. Snohomish County has seen a 50 percent increase over the past two weeks and Pierce County’s per 100,000 rate is 12 times higher than it was in June.

Cases are rising among all age groups and estimates for the reproductive number, the average number of people each case subsequently spreads to, is 1.29 in Western Washington and 1.36 in Eastern Washington.

“We are really concerned at this point with what we are seeing in the trends and believe that immediate action is needed now to flatten the curve,” Secretary of Health Jonathan Wiesman said.

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