Coronavirus cases at 'worst explosion' means it's time to consider canceling Thanksgiving: doctor

As the nation continues to set record daily totals of new coronavirus cases ahead of Thanksgiving, doctors are warning that it might be time to cancel traditional Thanksgiving plans.

Despite promising updates from biotech companies working on vaccine candidates that could reach the masses by the second quarter of 2021, the pandemic right now is hitting its “worst explosion” as current hospitalizations approach 70,000 for the first time this year.

That, coupled with the fact cases are rising in 48 states, should have people re-thinking traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham Associate Dean for Global Health Dr. Michael Saag.

“I would stay at home. I would think about canceling, honestly, Thanksgiving get togethers,” Saag told Yahoo Finance. “I know I sound like the Thanksgiving equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge, but we are in the middle of a pandemic that is exponentially growing.”

Medical experts have long feared winter months would accelerate the growth of new cases as more people shift to spending time indoors and travel increases opportunities to spread the virus. With Thanksgiving, however, there is a new fear which includes intergenerational celebrations which are likely to bring younger family members into contact with more susceptible populations including grandparents.

One of the doctors from the team that treated President Trump when he contracted COVID-19 and the Director of Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, Dr. Brian Garibaldi, agreed with Saag’s warning ahead of the holidays in a separate Yahoo Finance interview Monday.

“We need to be careful in how we plan our celebrations,” he said. “There’s this false sense of comfort that you get from hanging out with friends or family members that you know well — that somehow they are going to be safer than just the average person on the street in terms of a risk to give you the virus.”

VANCOUVER, Oct. 10, 2020 -- A volunteer wearing a face mask and a shield prepares meals at a booth during the Thanksgiving dinner event in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Oct. 10, 2020. An annual Thanksgiving dinner event distributing meals to people was hosted here on Saturday. (Photo by Liang Sen/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Liang Sen via Getty Images)

As a precaution, more Americans might turn to testing ahead of traveling back home, but Saag also warned against a possible false sense of security that could come from preliminary negative test results.

“Be careful, because especially with a rapid antigen test if somebody doesn’t have symptoms, that test can be falsely negative 30% to 40% of the time, depending on details,” he cautioned. “It only is really helpful if the test is positive. A negative test, even if it’s truly negative, doesn’t mean that that person wasn’t exposed a day before the test and then three days later ends up with COVID.”

Testing and the limitations that come with it were on full display earlier this year at the White House event that led to a number of positive cases. As Saag highlights from that example, relying on testing alone could be dangerous during Thanksgiving.

“This is a really bad time to travel and this a bad time, even within a family unit, to bring large groups of people together,” he said.

Zack Guzman is the co-host of the 11AM - 1PM hours on Yahoo Finance Live as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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