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5 safety tips for those celebrating Thanksgiving in person

Health professionals advise against celebrations with those outside your household. But one health professional has tips for those choosing to celebrate in-person.

SAN ANTONIO — Experts advise against in-person celebrations with those outside your household, but we spoke to one health professional who has tips for those who do celebrate in person.

As medical professionals advise against gathering for the holidays, the Transportation Security Administration said it saw its highest amount of airport traffic Sunday since the onset of the pandemic.

The numbers are concerning to doctors including Robert Leverence, the Chief Medical Officer at UT Health San Antonio who warned that the most traveled holiday of the year could add to the rising positivity rates across the state.

"I guess you can say this could be the perfect storm,” Leverence said. “Health care professionals are extremely concerned about this. It truly is a call to action. You know, the vaccines, we're excited about them. I'm just as excited as you are. But the vaccines aren't going to make a difference this coming weekend."

Though, Leverence acknowledged it may be hard for families to stay away this Thanksgiving, and listed five ways to celebrate more safely if in-person.

  1. Gather outdoors: Leverence explained that it is “much safer” to have Thanksgiving dinner is outdoors.
  2. Avoid buffet-style serving: According to Leverence, families should designate one person to serve the food while wearing a mask so to avoid multiple people touching the same utensils.
  3. Avoid bringing individuals who are immunocompromised to Thanksgiving
  4. Wear a mask while not eating
  5. Sit or stand 6 feet away from one another

Bexar County experienced a spike in its positivity rate, reporting a positivity rate of 10% for the week.

"That may not sound very high, 10%, but it's above what we're comfortable with,” Leverence said. "Our goal is less than five percent.

"There are other communities in Texas, El Paso and Dallas, for instance, which I believe are twice as high in the 20%. So it is an important indicator in here in San Antonio, we're not as bad as other places, but we're not where we need to be either.”

Leverence explained that Bexar County may have an edge on other counties currently experiencing the virus due to the spike Bexar County experienced in July when it reported a 24.2% positivity rate the week of July 12.

“We had a pretty bad surge back in July. In fact, it almost overwhelmed the health care system, but it did not,” Leverence said. “Because of that bad surge, we feel we have a number of people in the community already with immunity, and that should help us with this current surge, because if you have people out in the community who have already had it, they're less likely to transmit it. 

“The rapidity of the spread tends to slow down and not be quite as bad. Nevertheless, even with us having that immunity in the community, we can still get near or even worsen the levels that we had back in July, only because it's unclear how long that immunity lasts."

He said the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus is to avoid gathering — from weddings to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

“We all feel numb, if you will, from here hearing about these COVID numbers and these deaths over the past nine months,” Leverence said. "But it's changed and it's much worse this week. And it is a call for action if we want to have our family members around for Christmas. And we don't mean to be alarmist. If we want to have them around for Christmas and if we don't want to overwhelm our nurses and our doctors and please partake in the mitigation that's that's necessary to slow this down. We can do it. I'm optimistic we can do it, but we all have to do it.”