With the ongoing spread of COVID-19, many people still have questions, especially about Thanksgiving gatherings and mask wearing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks for everyone over the age of 2 and anticipates a widely available COVID-19 vaccine in 2021. More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last eight days.
As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at home with the people you live with, according to the CDC. Gatherings with family and friends who don’t live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
Dr. Jaclyn Nadler of CoastalMED in Englewood participated in a recent question-and-answer session with the Sun about this virus.
With COVID-19 lingering in Charlotte and Sarasota counties, is it good to have family and friends over for Thanksgiving?
“I support the CDC guidelines and Dr. (Anthony) Fauci’s recommendation to cancel Thanksgiving in-person celebrations. With technology, we can use Zoom, Amazon devices, etc., to have virtual family gatherings. There are always exceptions, but families really should look at the risks of spreading the virus and focus on having their families together next year.”
If you are going to have out-of-town guests or family over, is it best to have Thanksgiving dinner and conversations outside?
“I don’t advise, but if people chose to have out-of-town family visit for Thanksgiving, there are several things they can do to lower the risk. First, have their family quarantine prior to arrival, ensure they are practicing mask-wearing with additional shields during travel, keep family members in separate parts of the house and utilize masks while indoors, and have dinner and socializing events outdoors with appropriate distancing.”
What precautions can a family take to better safeguard at the Thanksgiving dinner table or gathering areas? For example, maybe eat in shifts to better social distance or eat in different rooms?
“Socially distanced outdoor dining with good ventilation is best. If indoor dining is necessary, I would recommend ensuring only people of the same household dine together.”
Is it smart to go shopping for Black Friday deals in local stores without a mask on?
“I do not recommend Black Friday shopping, I most definitely do not recommend shopping without a mask. There are lots of online shopping opportunities that people can engage with. If someone chooses to shop in a store, they should try to distance, wear a proper-fitting and quality mask, and sanitize hands when back in their car.”
Is it true both COVID-19 vaccines in the works require two doses? If you get the first one and not the second, what happens?
“So far, it appears that the prospective COVID-19 vaccines will require two doses. They have not given guidance if only once vaccine is received, but I suspect it may offer some protection, but lower effectiveness than expected if both are received.”
Is there still much to do about mask wearing? Are people still questioning the importance of wearing a mask or is it accepted locally?
“The science is clear that masks are effective at lowering the risk of COVID-19 spread. More important is wearing a proper multi-layer, well-fitting mask and one without valves. Shields alone are not effective. From what I see locally, many are doing their best to adhere, but many are still not. It’s important that everyone wear a proper mask at all times when in public when distancing is not possible.”
If you are traveling and cannot quarantine, what is the next best thing to do?
“Not traveling is optimal. If someone chooses to — or must — travel, I’d recommend wearing a mask and shield with airline travel, not removing on the plane to eat or drink, and possibly consider getting a rapid COVID-19 test to ensure they are not infected prior to and after their travel (although false negatives are possible early with infection, so some cases may be missed).
Are disposable and cloth masks good to reuse?
“Disposable masks should be thrown away after use. There is no clear data when to replace, but typically based on usage. If someone only uses for brief times throughout day, they could use the disposable mask for a few days, or dispose of it earlier if it became soiled, or in contact with someone who is sick. Cloth masks typically the same recommendation, but I advise my patients to have several on hand and launder daily, this will also help to prevent skin breakouts.”
Are masks bad for kids?
“There is no scientific data supporting any health risks for children over 2 years old wearing masks throughout the day. The important point is to use a CDC-recommended mask and they should have scheduled times throughout the day to remove it — more for comfort and not for health risks. The CDC on their website does provide good guidance for individual circumstances such as special needs children and those with hearing impairments.
Should people get a flu shot?
“The flu shot is important every year, but even more this year to hopefully prevent someone from contracting both SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) and influenza at or near the same time. A co-infection with both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza would most likely be more severe in anyone, but even more so in those with other underlying health issues.”
Can a flu shot protect against COVID-19?
“No, the flu shot only is effective against seasonal influenza A or B. Regardless of the flu shot, people still have the same risk for contracting COVID-19. If our seasonal flu shot is effective as it is in most years, if someone had the flu shot and developed flu-like symptoms, it may prompt them to self isolate or get tested for COVID-19, which would be a likely diagnosis based on community prevalence.”
Has the CDC recommended anything new that is important for us to follow?
“CDC data changes regularly, I encourage people to monitor their website every few days. They have strongly advised against holiday travel and gatherings, and as local and national cases increase this is becoming ever more important. We need to make sacrifices now to keep our families healthy to get us to the point of vaccinations and some normalcy next year.”