Richmond health leader warns about Thanksgiving gatherings

'None of us want to relieve what we experienced in April and May'
Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 18:08:04-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Less than a week until Thanksgiving, a prominent Richmond health leader is warning against celebrating the holiday with a large group of family and friends.

Richmond-Henrico Health District Director Dr. Danny Avula recommended gathering for a meal with only immediate family or those within your close-quarantine circle.

“I really worry about some of our elderly grandparents or uncle and aunts who might have significant underlying health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure -- things that might make getting COVID a more severe event for them,” Avula stated.

He advised that the gatherings should occur outdoors, with mask wearing, and spaced at least 6-feet apart.

During his Wednesday COVID-19 press conference, Governor Ralph Northam said Virginia is in a much better situation regarding the coronavirus compared to other states.

“Another piece of good news is that while this virus is spreading in Virginia we remain in the bottom of states for new cases and that is good news,” Northam explained.

In fact, the Commonwealth ranks 4th among the states with the lowest number of positive cases reported within the last week.

That “good news” is not an excuse to let your guard down around the holidays, Avula warned.

“It’s true that Virginia is not in the situation that many of other states are, but we are experiencing significant case counts now,” Avula explained. “Here in Central Virginia, we are seeing some of the highest numbers we’ve seen in this pandemic. The truth is we don’t want to be where those other states are.”

For example, this week Henrico County reported its highest 7-day average of cases per day since the pandemic started.

“The concern is the more disease we are seeing in the community the more likely it is to get to vulnerable populations. None of us want to relieve what we experienced in April and May,” Avula said.

Gov. Northam did caution against large gatherings saying, “We don’t want to wait until we see overwhelmed hospitals and double-digit positivity rates in every region.”

Northam also recently implemented stricter COVID-19 guidelines like limiting social gatherings to 25 people, including children under 5-years-old in the mask mandate, and restricting hours and alcohol sales at restaurant.

Avula said receiving a negative coronavirus test result doesn’t mean that you can safely gather with your family.

“A negative test is never an absolute. A negative test in a snapshot in time at that particular time that you got tested and you didn’t have enough virus to register a virus,” he explained. “If you’ve done a good job of quarantining yourself prior to that test then you can be confident you don’t have an exposure.”

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.