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Lubbock officials worry Thanksgiving gatherings will add to pandemic spread

Lubbock Health Authority Dr. Ron Cook said a safe Thanksgiving celebration is possible. At a Tuesday news conference, Cook shared what his family will be doing for the holiday.

“There’s about 10 of us,” Cook said. “We’re going to set up the food in the garage. We’re going to be eating outside. We’re going to isolate ourselves by family units that live together.”

He said each family member will serve themselves, sanitizing their hands before touching any shared utensils. They’ll sit at distanced tables, households grouped together, and wear masks when they’re not eating.

It’s different. But it will minimize the risks of spreading the coronavirus. And Cook will still get to enjoy dessert.

The Centers for Disease Control encourages people to not gather this holiday season, as coronavirus cases surge across the country. But if you’re going to, Cook’s strategy is in line with national recommendations.

“Our groups need to be smaller. It needs to be socially distanced. And it needs to be among those people who are living in your household,” Cook added.

There’s concern irresponsible Thanksgiving gatherings will exacerbate the rampant community spread Lubbock’s experienced since September. City of Lubbock Health Department Director Katherine Wells said smaller gatherings are driving COVID-19 cases.

“Our surge in cases is not due to superspreader events,” Wells explained. “But it’s the accumulation of thousands of decisions that are made across the community to ignore public health guidance of wearing a mask, staying home when you are sick and keeping physically distant.”

The city on Tuesday surpassed 30,000 total confirmed cases since mid-March. After being diagnosed with the virus, 325 Lubbockites have died. Wells said it’s become normal to receive over 500 positive test results a day.

“We need to make sure that the decisions that we make through the holidays don’t do anything to increase the number of daily cases that we continue to see,” Wells said.

The city’s hospital systems continue to be strained. On Tuesday, 335 people were hospitalized with complications of COVID-19, with a record-high 102 people requiring intensive care. The city reported 17 remaining hospital beds, the highest amount in days.

During the Tuesday news conference, Cook referenced what happened in Canada following its Thanksgiving holiday in October. Two weeks later, the country saw an uptick in COVID cases. Lubbock, and other cities, have seen notable increases in cases following holidays.

“We can’t afford to have that happen here,” Cook said. “Our hospitals, our emergency rooms and our ICUs are saturated. We cannot tolerate and handle any increase in the cases than we already have coming in.”

Almost 8,500 Texans are hospitalized with COVID-19 complications. 

Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.

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