Officials: Pass the Gravy, Not the COVID

Nov 20, 2020

Hospitalizations are expected to climb after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Credit WKNO File

The most recent COVID-19 wave is arriving along with the holidays, and local health experts are urgently warning against not just big gatherings, but small ones as well. Officials are asking people to trim down their Thanksgiving rituals and only enjoy the traditionally large meal with those in your household.

“Just really think about avoiding being with extended family because there’s so much COVID,” says Dr. Manoj Jain with the Memphis-Shelby COVID task force. “Anyone could have it—be asymptomatic and not know about it.”

Jain knows not everyone will heed his guidance, so the city is offering—as an extra precaution—mass testing events this weekend at four free sites.

But, a negative result isn’t a license to act like you don’t have the virus.

“When you do get tested, understand very clearly that you are negative at that time, but you may become positive at any other time so you must continue to do all of the other measures,” he says. 

Measures include distancing and masking with those not in your immediate household.

Jain says local medical resources are already stretched thin due to the nearly 400 COVID patients now occupying beds, more now than during the peak of the summer surge. If the trend continues, upwards of 500 could be hospitalized by the end of December, which Jain says would be uncharted territory for healthcare providers to manage.

“No doubt there’s tremendous mental and emotional strain on the healthcare workers, and that is going to play a role in our ability as healthcare providers to be able to care for patients in the next two-three months,” he says. 

Neither the state nor the local health department have indicated what number of hospitalized COVID patients would trigger the opening of an alternative field hospital at the old Commercial Appeal building. Officials already foresee a shortage of nurses available to staff the facility.

Meanwhile, health department leaders have indicated that new business restrictions could come as early as Friday.