Physician and nurse leaders at hospitals across Massachusetts are warning against large holiday gatherings and urging people to think of front-line health care workers as they plan their celebrations.
In a letter to the public, nearly 100 chief medical officers and chief nursing officers joined the chorus of health experts and public officials already raising alarms about the potential for coronavirus to spread more rapidly because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Wearing a mask and avoiding large gatherings is the greatest gift you can give” to health care workers battling COVID-19 on the front lines, the hospital officials said Monday.
These guidelines, along with physical distancing and frequent hand-washing, are essential for containing the spread of the virus, they said — and preventing hospitals from getting overwhelmed with COVID patients.
After a lull in the summer, coronavirus infections have been increasing in Massachusetts since Labor Day. State officials on Sunday reported 2,721 new cases of COVID and said 893 patients were hospitalized for the disease. Of those, 192 are in intensive care units and 88 are using ventilators to breathe.
“Set up your meal tables to allow for distance between each person and avoid sharing drinks, food or utensils. Celebrate outside if at all possible…. Set up virtual check-ins, organize drive-by celebrations, and find ways to embrace the extraordinary circumstances of these times,” hospital officials said.
The letter was signed by officials at large hospital systems including Mass General Brigham and Beth Israel Lahey Health, as well as many community hospitals such as Holyoke Medical Center, Lawrence General Hospital, and Cape Cod Hospital.
Governor Charlie Baker, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many health experts have been warning against holiday gatherings that involve travel and members of different households mingling together indoors. The virus can spread quickly when people gather in tight indoor spaces and do not wear masks.
After Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving last month, cases of coronavirus in Canada spiked.