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Doctors: don’t let Thanksgiving become “super spreader” event

Nov 25, 2020, 6:39 PM
Utah ICUs filling up because of Covid...
Healthcare workers care for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. (Photo: Intermountain Healthcare)
(Photo: Intermountain Healthcare)

SALT LAKE CITY – Some doctors in Utah worry Thanksgiving could become a “super spreader” event.

That’s the fear of Intermountain Healthcare infectious disease expert Dr. Eddie Stenehjem. 

“Our home is an opportunity where we let our guard down. People take their masks off, we stay inside, we eat together, we drink together. And this is a perfect place for…the virus that causes COVID-19,” Stenehjam said at a news conference Wednesday urging Utahns to stay home for Thanksgiving. 

Another reason COVID-19 could spread more during Thanksgiving is the weather. When it’s cold outside, people stay indoors. And indoor infections happen more often than outdoor ones. 

Utah hospitals can’t manage a Thanksgiving super spreader event

Besides that possibility, Stenehjem worries about the strain a Thanksgiving super spreader event could cause on Utah’s healthcare system.

“That will increase our case counts in the next seven to ten days, which will further drive hospitalizations to a point we cannot tolerate,” Stenehjem said.

Utah has 570 people in the hospital for COVID-19 right now and community spread is wide, even in rural areas. 

Stenehjem said they expect more patients through early December, even though many ICUs are full. 

The biggest problem may be finding staff once Thanksgiving super spreader events turn into COVID cases.

“Our biggest resource limitation is not our beds. Our biggest resource limitation is our caregivers,” said Stenehjem. “Beds don’t care for people. Caregivers care for people.”

He pleaded with people to keep Thanksgiving to their immediate household to help the mental strain of healthcare workers. 

“We are tired. We are very, at times, frustrated and angry when we see actions in the community that isn’t in line with public health,” Stenehjem said.

Dr. Travis Mickelson, the Medical Director of Mental Health Integration for Intermountain Healthcare, also recommended people not visit family for Thanksgiving. 

But he also encouraged people who were experiencing mental strain over the holiday to reach out and get help, take a walk to relieve stress, and think of things for which they are grateful.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

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Doctors: don’t let Thanksgiving become “super spreader” event