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Our View: Take health expert’s advice and take precautions this Thanksgiving | COMMENTARY

On Tuesday, speaking to the Board of Commissioners, Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer made one final plea to anyone who might be tuned in to take precautions this Thanksgiving in an effort to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 to loved ones, particularly elderly family members. We would be remiss not to do the same.

This week is somewhat of a perfect storm in terms of virus transmission. The colder weather has forced most people indoors. College students are returning home for the holidays from all over the country, including places with transmission rates far higher than Carroll. And, of course, Thursday is Thanksgiving, traditionally a time for large family gatherings, often around the same table for a lengthy meal.

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“I know we all want to be around our family,” Singer said, noting that it is essential for the emotional and mental well-being of our older population, most vulnerable to COVID-19, to have some sort of contact with loved ones at this time of year. “It’s really important for our seniors to be engaged.”

So the top-ranking health officer in Carroll County offered the following advice.

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“If you can do something where you can have a virtual Zoom holiday with your elderly parents and grandparents or somebody who’s in that high-risk group, that would be a great thing to do,” he said. “We’ve talked about maybe taking some food and delivering it to family members, kind of a drop-and-run type of thing, and then have a Zoom get-together.”

He suggested that if people are definitely going to get together in person, perhaps the meal could be enjoyed outdoors. “Anything you can do to reduce the risk,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a little rainy, but the temperatures aren’t supposed to be too bad.”

In his weekly presentation to the commissioners, Singer pointed out that Carroll County has seen record numbers for total COVID-19 cases in each of the past three weeks. He also noted that four people died last week and worried that a spike in deaths could follow this recent increase in cases. In fact, another Carroll County death was announced by the health department on Tuesday afternoon. Singer said more over-65 Carroll countians tested positive last week than in any other week of the pandemic.

“We really need to be concerned about this high-risk age group. And we really need to think about the potential risk we could be putting this population in,” Singer said, referring to Thanksgiving.

Gov. Hogan’s executive orders outlaw gatherings of more than 25, but Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, asked Singer how many he thought would be too many if families do insist on getting together Thursday for Thanksgiving.

“I really think you’ve got to try to keep your groups to less than 10,” he said, recommending that people spread out as best they can. “I can’t imagine 25. That’s too many people.”

So, again, we urge everyone to listen to Singer and pretty much every other public health expert out there and take significant precautions this Thanksgiving. Don’t travel. Use Zoom or some other teleconferencing service, to enjoy a virtual dinner with family, if that’s possible. And if you insist on getting together, keep the gatherings to less than 10, stay outside as much as possible and socially distance. Making it through the first week of December symptom-free would give everyone something to be thankful for.

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