Health officials concerned election crowds, holiday gatherings could bolster COVID-19 spread

CDC offers advice for making Thanksgiving holiday plans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Crowds that formed at polling places on Tuesday, despite their apparent smaller-than-usual size, still have the potential to spread the coronavirus as the holiday season looms.

UF Health’s director of infection prevention, Chad Neilsen, said he would not be surprised by a surge in the coming weeks.

“I think the potential really is there, particularly as we’re already seeing more cases and percent positivity increasing, especially across Northeast Florida and the rest of the state,” said Neilsen. “Hospitalizations are also slightly increasing over the last two weeks or so.”

Neilsen said last week’s Halloween gatherings and upcoming holidays such as Thanksgiving have the potential to exacerbate the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Northeast Florida and across the country.

“Because of the holidays, college kids tend to go back to their homes from school and they’re the ones who are more likely to have it asymptomatically and spread it,” Neilsen said. “Then just in general, cold winter comes in, and so people start congregating inside a lot. You throw on the fuel of holiday parties, and holiday get-togethers and now you’ve gotten mixed generations, potentially sharing tight space with each other around the Thanksgiving dinner table.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those who want to engage in holiday celebrations should consider the following:

  • Level of community spread at your travel destination.
  • Location of the gathering (Indoor events present a lower risk than outdoor events).
  • Duration of the gathering.
  • Number of guests.
  • Behavior and safety practices of guests prior to and during the gathering.

More information and recommendations from the CDC about holiday gatherings can be found on its website.

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