Montgomery County’s chief doctor on Friday pleaded for families to change their Thanksgiving plans, echoing the calls from other public health experts amid the surge of coronavirus.
“You’re hearing from all the health departments, Thanksgiving is going to be a threat to our wellbeing and safety,” county health officer Dr. Scott Douglas said, speaking on the “Crawfordsville Connections” podcast.
Douglas urged people not to congregate indoors on the holiday with people they don’t live with. That was the same advice given by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving.
The CDC says the safest way to spend the holiday is at home with people from the same household.
If families do decide to include returning college students, military members or others for turkey and stuffing, the CDC is recommending that the hosts take added precautions: Gatherings should be outdoors if possible, with people keeping 6 feet apart and wearing masks and just one person serving the food.
“I know it’s disappointing for a lot of people, but we can look forward to Thanksgiving next year,” Douglas added.
Douglas appeared alongside Montgomery County Health Department administrator Amber Reed and Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton to provide an update on the local response to the pandemic.
The department announced that the county’s first free community testing site will open on Tuesday, with a second location expected to be up and running in December. The additional testing should ease the load at the local hospital’s busy test site, Reed said.
“They’re days behind trying to get people tested because the need is so great at this point,” Reed said. “We’re still going to have some of the backup because labs can only process so many tests at a time.”
The rise in cases isn’t just reflected in the demand for testing, officials said. Area hospitals are filled with coronavirus patients as more people are getting sick enough to be hospitalized.
The county reported 34 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,226, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. No additional deaths were reported.
Barton urged people to take the virus seriously.
“If over the summer people, you know, had let their guard down and thought, ‘You know, this is not as bad as we thought it was going to be,’ now we’re where we feared and we’ve got to take every step necessary,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report