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Don’t bring COVID-19 to dinner: Washington health officials warn against holiday gatherings

The state health officer says Washington is experiencing the fastest growth of coronavirus since March, and Thanksgiving is creating more concern.

SEATTLE — Washington state health officials are continuing to warn people against hosting Thanksgiving gatherings as coronavirus cases keep rising.

During a Wednesday briefing, State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said Washington is experiencing the fastest growth of COVID-19 cases since March. If we continue on the transmission rate that we are on, Dr. Lofy said the estimate is the state will see almost 150 people admitted to hospitals everyday.

Dr. Elizabeth Wako, chief operating officer at Swedish First Hill, said her hospital is already reducing elective surgeries to make room for more COVID-19 patients.

"Just this morning, we admitted 10 patients in five hours, so that is exponential for us," said Dr. Wako.

A new national survey by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found nearly two in five people report they will likely attend a gathering with more than 10 people for Thanksgiving.

"If you gather with 15 people for Thanksgiving dinner, there will be an 18% chance that one of the individuals will be infected with COVID," said Dr. Lofy.

Deputy Secretary of Health Lacy Fehrenbach added, "There's risk for further transmission. Those guests who become infected may go on to do other things the following week. They may go to a religious service. Another might work in a nursing home. A child who attended could go to school leading to outbreaks in these locations."

Dr. Mike Famulare, the principal research scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling, found the number of COVID-19 cases rising quickly with Washington state is on track to hit 1% prevalence by Thanksgiving.

In a series of tweets, Dr. Famulare explained that could mean, 76,000 people with COVID on Thanksgiving, and between 25,000 to 40,000 people who won't yet know they are sick and bringing "#COVID19 to dinner."

"Around 450 of those people, if that comes to pass, will not make it to New Years," said Famulare. "This is growing rapidly in a way we haven't seen since the beginning of the pandemic, and what we can do about that is in our control." 

Dr. Famulare said we can reverse the trend by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and staying home as much as possible. He added that he knows it is hard to not get together for Thanksgiving, but he recommended avoiding gatherings.