What does a safe Thanksgiving look like in Butler County?

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Butler County public health officials are echoing what health experts across the nation are warning: Visiting family and friends this holiday season can put everyone in danger.

The Butler County General Health District officials are asking people to consider an alternative way to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in other ways this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The best way to show that you love your family and friends is to make a commitment not to gather,” says Jennifer Bailer Health Commissioner for the Butler County General Health District. “Many of us look forward to celebrating with our loved ones all year long, so of course folks want to be with their families, it’s hard-wired within us. This is one year to do it differently.”

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There are more than 11.6 million COVID-19 virus cases reported since January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There have been more than 335,400 total COVID-19 cases in Ohio since March.”

The COVID-19 virus has killed hundreds of thousands nationwide, according to the CDC. In Ohio, nearly 6,000 deaths have been reported as of Friday, and more than 140 in Butler County, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Hospitals across the nation have reached critical levels, health officials say, and some in the region are “on the brink of full capacity, which could ultimately affect their ability to care for those that have COVID-19,” Bailer said. “It could impact those who need the hospital for other care such as heart attacks, car accidents, or premature births. We cannot maintain this path.”

Bailer also said hospitals are reporting staffing shortages due to the COVID-19 virus as it impacts healthcare workers and their families.

“It isn’t just beds and ventilators, healthcare workers are also in short supply,” she said.

Because of this third surge of novel coronavirus cases in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a statewide curfew that began Thursday and runs for three weeks. Anyone not going to or from work, the grocery store or out in an emergency are asked to stay at home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.

Before the curfew was ordered, it was believed DeWine could have ordered another shutdown as all 88 counties are considered high incidence of virus spread. Nearly all of the state is at the Level 3, or red level, in Ohio’s color-coded public health advisory system indicating “very high exposure and spread,” and Franklin County is the first county to be at Level 4, or purple, indicating “severe spread and exposure.”

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The spread has caused difficulty for some businesses and schools to stay open because they have so many sick workers, said Carrie Yeager, director of Environmental Health at the Butler County General Health District.

“We want our businesses to stay open,” she said. “One way to help with that is to stay apart this Thanksgiving so COVID can’t spread.”

Mass gatherings are prohibited of more than 10 people, but Yeager said that doesn’t mean you can’t have a safe Thanksgiving.

“If you feel you can gather safely, keep your guest list to fewer than 10 people,” she said.

Isolation is a sign of caring, said Bailer.

“With vaccines on the horizon, we are hopeful we will only have to do this once,” she said. “We can celebrate Thanksgiving and winter holidays in different ways this one year in order to protect ourselves, our families, our health care workers and all of us.”


Here are ways to make sure you have a safe holiday season this late fall and winter:

  • Weigh the risks of COVID-19 for yourself and loved ones: Talk about it ahead of time, ask about a short guest list, ask about safety measures, check if safe distancing can happen, and think about other ways to reduce the risk of virus exposure.
  • Health experts say the safest way to celebrate is not in person: Meet virtually via a video call or phone call, consider making new traditions, organize a virtual call with extended family during everyone’s dinners, share recipes instead of dinner, or go through old family photos and videos and share digitally with loved ones.
  • If you do gather, do it differently: Have a small dinner with those already in the home; host outside if or when possible, make sure the space is well ventilated by opening windows and doors if possible; and arrange tables and chairs at a safe distance apart.
  • While you are gathering: Wear a face covering when not eating or drinking, wait 6 feet apart from others, and wash your hands regularly. Also, regularly disinfect frequently touches surfaces like doorknobs and light switches.

Source: Butler County General Health District

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