coronavirus pandemic

Holidays in a Pandemic: Health Experts Urge Caution

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Holidays that normally bring families and friends together are expected to be a bit different this year. Already many are making plans for how to celebrate while apart.

"We usually get together with another family. Been doing it for over 60 years. This year we're probably going to be doing a Zoom dessert or maybe a drive-thru dessert where we will show up with a pie, hand it out the window," said West Hartford resident Rob Hugh.

Hugh says this year they may not even get together with family.

Augusto Russell's family decided over the last few days to play it safe too.

"I think we all decided we just stay in our homes and do FaceTime or whatever. The tough challenge, I think, is finding the right small turkey so you don't have a whole lot of leftovers," said Russell.

Families across the country are weighing the risks, especially to elderly family members, as coronavirus cases spike. NBC News reports that over the last two weeks, Connecticut has seen a more than 100% increase in cases.

Health experts say while it's not ideal, connecting virtually this holiday season is the best option.

"Personally, we will not be having my parents, for example, for Thanksgiving because I just don't feel that it's safe," said Yale New Haven Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Balcezak.

Balcezak says in terms of safety, the next step below not gathering would be having people quarantine for 14 days prior to coming over. He also spoke about the option of testing right before.

"A test just immediately before coming into the home is some degree of safety, but it's not perfect, especially if that person is going to remain in that home for a day or two or three. Because just because the test is negative today, assuming it's an accurate test, it doesn't mean that it will also be negative the next day or the day after that. If they had been exposed in the previous 14 days, we know the incubation period can be up to 14 days," said Balcezak. "There is no perfect solution here other than not gathering."

During a news conference, Yale New Haven Health CEO Marna Borgstrom said they're concerned about the growing number of hospitalizations and positive cases. She says their health system has 210 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, more than twice the number they had when they did another news briefing two weeks ago.

"This uptick we're experiencing is consistent with what others are seeing around the state and around the region," said Borgstrom.

"We are heading into what is going to seem like a long, cold, and dark winter, and some of our forecasting models are showing that if this trend doesn't reverse itself, we will be seeing a peak sometime toward the end of December or the first of the new year. That's daunting considering it's only the first part of November," said Balcezak.

Those staying home this holiday season and changing family traditions and plans say they already have big expectations for next year.

"We're probably going to party twice as hard next year," said Russell.

"It's one year, and we can do this," said Hugh.

Yale New Haven Health says the numbers they're seeing across the health system are similar to what they had in mid-March. Balcezak adds there is good news. He says the percent of patients on ventilators is down compared to what it was in March and that treatment protocols have improved, the science has improved, and doctors are much more familiar with the virus.

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