A COVID-19 surge post-Thanksgiving could cause a ‘humanitarian crisis’

covid-19 after thanksgiving
Photo via Jorge Díaz/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

Holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day have all demonstrated increases in coronavirus cases. Infectious disease experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, say the projected increase in COVID-19 after Thanksgiving will be even worse.

“We may see a surge upon a surge,” Fauci told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

The average number of daily new cases is 100,000 higher than it was in July, according to ABC News. November saw more than 3.2 million new cases of coronavirus, making it the worst so far for the U.S. Despite these increases in reported cases, as well as warnings from many government and public health officials, millions of people traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

At least 1 million people traveled by air from the Friday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 20, through Wednesday, Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, according to the Associated Press. It remains unclear how many traveled by car or train.

Experts said that a combination of a false sense of security created by the rhetoric around false-positive tests, as well as readily available testing and caution fatigue, may have been the driving force behind this increase. A negative test, Boston Children’s Hospital Chief Innovation Officer Dr. John Brownstein said, does not mean that one does not carry the coronavirus.

Although government officials pleaded with the public not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, many didn’t heed that warning. Brownstein called the number of cases that could come from that a “humanitarian crisis.”

“If we layer in travel and large indoor gatherings which we know are drivers of transmission, we expect to see a massive surge on top of an already dire situation,” Brownstein said before the holiday.

It’s unclear what the COVID-19 data will look like for the first few weeks after Thanksgiving. Certainly, cases will increase due to more travel and exposure outside the home, but many states will delay reporting due to the holiday. That could also muddy the waters. 

The Atlantic posits that a dip in cases reported may be observed following the holiday and long weekend but said this should not prompt a sense of safety. Public health offices will likely be dealing with a backlog of cases, if projections created by ABC showing a near tripling of cases are correct. 

Sources: ABC News, The Atlantic, The Hill, Associated Press

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