“I Hope Grandpap Doesn’t Die.” Experts and Common Sense are Clear: For Thanksgiving, Stay Home.

Tazwell Brandabur & Madalena Larkins

Image courtesy Coco Brandabur

Title quote: Kimberly Repp

The Charter Editorials

11/23/20

In the shadow of the largest spike in Covid-19 cases Oregon has seen, many are still planning to celebrate Thanksgiving in-person. However, small-scale events are credited as the principle cause of the ongoing surge in cases, and resultant deaths. But how much should one really risk for a turkey?

Near the beginning of the pandemic, experts predicted that fall and winter of 2020 would bring a second wave of the virus. They were right. Colder and wetter weather has triggered many Oregonians to move social gatherings indoors, causing Covid-19 cases to surge. Since late October, Oregon has been reporting more than double the new cases per day compared to any other point during the pandemic so far, with an average of 1,241 as of Nov. 24th. (Oregon Live).

In response, Governor Brown issued a statewide freeze, which supersedes the existing patchwork of ‘pause’ measures previously in place. The freeze bears many similarities to the original stay-at-home order that kicked off Oregon’s quarantine in March.

The sharp rise in cases has many worried that hospitals will be overwhelmed. “By the time it hits the hospitals, that’s a two, three week delay,” said Dr. Kimberly Repp, epidemiologist, in a November 12th interview with OPB. “These massive numbers that we’re seeing right now haven’t hit our hospitals yet, but they will… Our hospital capacity in the region is OK right now– I’m scared to see what two weeks from now is going to look like.” Repp is a nationally recognized epidemiologist working at the Washington County Department of Health.

The risk of getting the virus while attending a gathering is much higher than it’s ever been. So is the risk of having the virus right now, and being contagious, whether or not symptoms are detectable at the moment. 

“Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them, until it does,” noted Repp in the OPB interview, “we saw that all the way from the top of our elected officials, down to the bottom… it’s hard to ask people to prevent something they haven’t had.” 

Regulations limiting social gatherings have proven effective in the past, and experts believe they can once again stem the bulk of new cases. However, the restrictions won’t work unless the public adheres to them. 

The best way to avoid becoming one of the 1000+ Oregonians who test positive for the virus tomorrow, is simply to follow the guidelines put in place, and spend the holiday with one’s housemates. Doing so not only protects the individual, but puts a stop to the exponential number of cases that could result from theirs.

Outdoor gatherings aren’t fully safe either, and, in Repp’s words, “If you try to recreate indoors, outdoors, you are losing all benefit of being outdoors.” Even with no attempt at simulating an indoor environment, even if attendees are masked and stay six feet apart, there’s no guarantee that no one will contract the virus. “Don’t get this false sense of safety from being six feet away from someone with a mask on,” advised Repp.

Although it might be tempting to spend Thanksgiving with relatives outside one’s household, there’s just no way to do that safely right now. So please, stay home this Thanksgiving. 

“Is it really worth risking the life for a turkey?” asked Repp; “I would honestly just ask people to reflect: If someone got sick because of this meeting/this gathering, would I be OK with that? Would I be able to look them in the face and say ‘It is worth it that you were hospitalized’? And if you can’t say yes to that, maybe reconsider having that gathering.” 

Sources:

Image courtesy Coco Brandabur, 23 Nov. 2020.

Balick, Lisa. “Brown warns ‘roughest days of pandemic’ are ahead.” Koin 6. 14 Nov. 2020.

https://www.koin.com/news/health/coronavirus/gov-brown-to-hold-press-conference-announcing-new-covid-measures/ Accessed 19 Nov. 2020. 

“Coronavirus at a glance.” Oregon Live. 19 Nov. 2020. https://projects.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/ Accessed 19 Nov. 2020. 

Eisenberg, Joseph. “How Scientists Quantify the Intensity of an Outbreak Like Covid-19.” Michigan Medicine Health Lab, University of Michigan. 17 Mar. 2020. 

https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/rounds/how-scientists-quantify-intensity-of-an-outbreak-like-covid-19 Accessed 19 Nov. 2020. 

Frost, Allison. “Epidemiologist on COVID-19 rates, advice for colder weather.” Oregon Public Broadcasting. 12 Nov. 2020. https://www.opb.org/article/2020/11/12/epidemiologist-on-covid-19-rates-advice-for-colder-weather/ Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“Governor Kate Brown Announces Two-Week Pause on Social Activities to Stop Rapid Spread of Covid-19.” 6 Nov. 2020. State of Oregon Newsroom, Press Release.   https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=37671 Accessed 19 Nov. 2020. 

“Governor Kate Brown Places Four Additional Counties on Two-Week Pause.” 9 Nov. 2020. State of Oregon Newsroom, Press Release.  https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=37679 Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“Governor Kate Brown Announces Statewide Two-Week Freeze to Stop Rapid Spread Of Covid-19.” 13 Nov. 2020. State of Oregon Newsroom, Press Release.  https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=37702 Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

Maxouris, Christina. “US could be in for ‘a bad fall and a bad winter’ if it’s unprepared for a second wave of coronavirus, Fauci warns.” CNN. 29 Apr. 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/29/health/us-coronavirus-wednesday/index.html Accessed 19 Nov. 2020. 

Oregon Office of the Governor. “Executive Order 20-65.”https://www.oregon.gov/gov/admin/Pages/eo_20-65.aspx. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020. 

Vanderhart, Dirk. “Freeze, : Gov. Kate Brown restricts businesses again as COVID-19 cases surge.” Oregon Public Broadcasting. 13 Nov. 2020. https://www.opb.org/article/2020/11/13/o13regon-governor-kate-brown-covid-19-restrictions/ Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

Washington County Health and Human Services. “Washington County Epidemiologist Nationally Recognized for Innovative Approach to Suicide Prevention.” 22 Oct. 2018. https://co.washington.or.us/HHS/News/kim-repp-award.cfm Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.