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Blubaugh: Preparing for a Thanksgiving that comes with a cornucopia of coronavirus | COMMENTARY

Thanksgiving is near. The turkey and stuffing. The football on TV. And the politically charged conversations with relatives — done via Zoom with a laptop set up at the head of the table so family members in Dundalk or Dover or Des Moines can chime in.

No, this is not your father’s Thanksgiving. It remains a time to be thankful, connect with loved ones and enjoy a fine feast, but this year, unfortunately, it comes with a cornucopia of coronavirus.

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As with graduations, wedding receptions, the Fourth of July and Halloween, this will have to be a modified event thanks to spiking COVID-19 numbers. Those unwilling to change behavior? Well, that’s a big part of why we’re in this mess, from California to the Dakotas to Allegany County to your hometown.

Here in Carroll County, we’re in the midst of three straight weeks of record highs for new cases, with numbers three and four times the numbers that had us so concerned in the spring.

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There were 220 total COVID-19 cases in Carroll during the five weeks from May 31 through July 4. There were 233 cases the week of Nov. 8. And 255 from last Sunday through Friday.

Testing capacity at the Carroll County Agriculture Center site was increased to accommodate demand that has grown exponentially over the past month. Yes, more people are making appointments because of symptoms. And the percentage of those testing positive has doubled since the beginning of November.

But many of the nearly 500 who were tested at the Ag Center last week were doing so under the false presumption that a negative test would “clear” them for Thanksgiving dinner. It doesn’t work that way.

“Probably people are getting tested before they travel or visit for the holidays, but unfortunately, a single negative test is not a guarantee that you don’t have the virus,” Health Department spokesperson Maggie Kunz said via email. “It can take 5-7 days or even longer to build up enough of the virus to test positive after you have been exposed. And if you get tested but then do things that are high-risk, you can get infected then.

“The best way to protect others is to quarantine for 14 day before you visit. If you can’t do that, at least stay home as much as possible. ... Just remember that a negative test is not a substitute for taking precautions like masking and distancing, especially if you are visiting someone high-risk.”

For the Einsteins out there who still liken COVID-19 to influenza, Kunz told the Board of Commissioners on Thursday that Carroll sees from one to 12 flu deaths each year. Compare that to the county’s 157 coronavirus-related deaths this year, including four last week.

A Facebook friend recently posted about his struggle with COVID-19, noting he now understands why it’s an issue. But this was only after spending months thinking the pandemic was being overblown and hosting a party of 16 which resulted in 12 positive tests.

It’s not schools reopening or even the random non-believer refusing to wear a mask at the grocery store, it’s the gatherings that are getting us.

It shouldn’t have to take actually catching the disease to make one realize how serious it is. Other than total isolation, nothing we do is 100% safe, but just as people take precautions to avoid the flu — or measles or rabies or STDs — precautions must be taken to avoid COVID-19. Even during holidays.

Full disclosure, we won’t be doing a Zoomsgiving. We are hosting a few family members. But we’ll be eating outside, on the deck. To keep a 6-foot distance, probably not everyone will be able to sit under the covered portion. So we’ll be rooting against precipitation. If it’s cold, dinner will be over in record time.

Maybe we’ll require a “normal” temperature reading to gain entrance. Maybe we’ll hand out Clorox wipes with the napkins. Maybe we’ll have hand sanitizer sitting on the table instead of cranberry sauce. Nobody touches that stuff anyway.

Regardless of how different it will seem, it will still be Thanksgiving and even COVID-19 can’t change certain traditions associated with this special holiday. We will express thanks. We will stuff ourselves. And we will argue about politics. Hopefully, staying safe while doing so.

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So, anyway, about that election ...

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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