Richmond Times-Dispatch

In Opinions

Thanksgivi­ng still requires us to be vigilant.

- — Chris Gentilviso

Across the U.S ., C OVID -19 cases and hospitaliz­ations are rising— so much so that some medical resources are strained.

“No beds anywhere,” read a Sunday headline in the Minneapoli­s Star Tribune, chroniclin­g the struggle across Minnesota. That same day, The Denver Post also reported that in recent weeks, metro area hospitals were turning away ambulances. Nationwide, CNN reported that the Johns Hopkins Coronaviru­s Resource Center logged 3 million new COVID-19 cases during the 3-week span from Nov. 1 to Nov. 22— marking 25% of all U.S. cases since the pandemic began.

Testing has improved, the CNN report added, but not to a level matching the latest surge. While Virginia has been lucky, the numbers are trending upward. With Thanksgivi­ng approachin­g, the state averaged roughly 2,000 new daily cases this past week— more than twice as high as one month ago.

“We were all looking at the holidays as a possible time when cases might go up, but I think the pace of this increase is, if you want an emotion, disappoint­ing,” Virginia Health Commission­er M. Norman Oliver told the RTD’s Mel Leonor this past week.

Now comes turkey day — the perfect storm of risky behaviors. Masks and eating big meals don’t mix. Social distancing is incongruou­s with large family gatherings. Colder weather moves people inside, where viral transmissi­on is more likely.

As of Friday, roughly 13,000 of the commonweal­th’s 16,000 hospital beds were occupied, the RTD report added. Virginia carries a surge capacity of 20,000 beds and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which measures the availabili­ty of hospital resources, does not project a strain for the commonweal­th into the beginning of next year.

But projection­s are just that, and across the state, the burden can be uneven at the local level. For example, in the Fredericks­burg region, medical officials told The Free Lance-Star that right before Halloween, the number of COVID-19 patients at two local hospitals was at 15. This past week, there were 39 on Thursday and 38 on Friday.

“It is better to have small gatherings now than large gatherings of patients in our ICUs in a few weeks,” Dr. Denise Bonds, acting director of the Rappahanno­ck Area Health District, told The Free Lance-Star.

We agree. Wehave a choice before us: the temporary lossof traditions or the risk of more lives lost. With COVID-19 and Thanksgivi­ng plans, vigilance must prevail over fatigue.

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