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Thanksgiving could be the turning point for the COVID-19 surge – or not

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 26, 2020

A man walks through the 30th Street Station ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Philadelphia. With the coronavirus surging out of control, the nation's top public health agency pleaded with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.  (Matt Slocum)
A man walks through the 30th Street Station ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Philadelphia. With the coronavirus surging out of control, the nation's top public health agency pleaded with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household. (Matt Slocum)

Decisions made on Thanksgiving Day will determine the trajectory of the pandemic for the rest of 2020 and likely into the new year.

“We are here for you, but how we behave and how we work together over these next several days and weeks will really determine capacity across our hospital systems,” Susan Stacey, chief operating officer at Providence hospitals in Spokane, told reporters Wednesday.

Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 have doubled in the month of November alone, and have nearly reached the peak levels from March.

On Nov. 1, there were 471 Washington residents being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals statewide. Just 23 days later, there are currently more than 1,000 Washington residents hospitalized for COVID-19.

These trends parallel what is happening in Spokane County, where hospitalizations continue to break previous records nearly every day over the last two weeks.

As of Wednesday, there were 123 COVID-19 patients across the county’s four hospitals, executives from MultiCare Deaconess Hospital and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center said. All Spokane hospitals still have capacity, but that does not eliminate the need to drive down community transmission.

Hospitals are predicting and expecting a surge in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks; however, what happens on Thanksgiving could determine what hospitals will experience well into December and January.

Modelers at the Institute for Disease Modeling found that if people followed the governor’s restrictions , it could begin to affect transmission of the virus, slowing the increase in case counts and hospitalizations by the end of November.

If people continue to gather, by early December, hospital admissions could double the peak numbers the state saw in late March, the report says.

COVID-19 cases are growing exponentially statewide, including in all five of the state’s largest counties: Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane.

In the last three days, the Spokane Regional Health District has confirmed 1,216 cases. In the last week, the district confirmed 2,340 cases. Of the county’s 15,745 cases, only 61.5% of those cases are considered recovered.

While local and state health departments did not release new case counts on Thanksgiving, epidemiologists and health workers did work at Spokane Regional Health District and other local health jurisdictions to continue to call people who have tested positive for the virus.

Statewide, adults from 25 to 59 are testing positive in the highest volumes .

The governor’s order closing restaurants for indoor dining, limiting capacity in retail stores and prohibiting gatherings is set to expire on Monday, Dec. 14. On Wednesday, State Health Officer Kathy Lofy said it was too early to determine whether that date would be extended.

“I’m not seeing a lot of positive signals in our data right now, but we’ll be watching it really closely,” she said.


Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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