In a full-on pandemic, Americans are still planning large-scale gatherings

As coronavirus cases in the US continue to surge to new records, doctors and even president-elect Joe Biden are warning against large gatherings.

But many Americans have different plans.

Image credit: Flickr / Mgstanton

The US surpassed last Sunday 11 million coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The milestone comes just six days after the US recorded 10 million cases, and the dark records are continuing to pile up. It was the fastest the country has added one million new cases since the pandemic started early this year, the data showed.

But that’s not changing everyone’s plans.

Almost 40% of US residents said they plan to meet in groups of 10 or more people this holiday season, according to a survey carried out by Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center. Almost 33% of those surveyed said they wouldn’t ask friends or family to wear a mask, with 25% saying they won’t practice any form of social distancing.

“When you’re gathered together around the table, engaged in conversation, sitting less than 6 feet apart with your masks down, even in a small group, that’s when the spread of this virus can really happen,” said in a statement Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at OSU Wexner Medical Center.

Several states across the country moved to enact restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. California’s governor announced yesterday that the state is “pulling the emergency brake” on its reopening and reinstating broad restrictions, while Iowa’s governor announced a mask mandate.

This new scenario has led health experts and state leaders, including Anthony Fauci, the top disease infectious expert in the US, to warn against congregating indoors with large groups of people amid the pandemic. That’s especially the case for individuals 65 and older, who should be cautious when attending gatherings.

“Even if it’s a very small group, to the extent possible, keep the mask on,” Fauci told CBS while acknowledging you have to remove the mask to eat or drink. “There is community spread right now. People don’t have symptoms, they don’t know they are infected. So, we need to pull more testing into the community.”

This comes as small gatherings are believed to be one of the current drivers of the pandemic. We tend to think that gatherings among friends and family are safe, but there’s no real reason why these should be any safer than any other meeting. If anything, we should be more careful to make sure we reduce the risk of passing the virus to the one we love.

Asked about Thanksgiving, President-elect Joe Biden also asked people to be cautious. He said he consulted with his team of public health experts, who recommend limiting family gathering to a maximum of 10 people, socially distanced and wearing masks, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden said he and his wife, Jill Biden, spent the morning, “like many of you, trying to figure out what are we going to do for Thanksgiving. How are we going to do it.” He said they “narrowed down which family members and that they were tested, recently tested” and “strongly urged” people to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a set of guidelines regarding Thanksgiving. They suggested wearing a mask with two or more layers over the nose and mouth, keeping six feet from others, washing hands often with soap and water, and bringing your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.

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