Health Officials Urge Caution During Thanksgiving Gatherings

Holiday celebrations should be limited and include COVID-19 precautions.

State Health Secretary Dr. José Romero is advising Arkansans to avoid travel and to celebrate Thanksgiving with immediate family.

“We know it is family time, it is get together time, but we are in the middle of a pandemic,” Romero said yesterday during the state’s weekly briefing.

If Arkansans are planning to celebrate Thanksgiving at home, Dr. Romero suggests hosting the celebration outside where there’s air circulation. Other recommendations include maintaining distance, avoiding hugging and kissing, and wearing a mask except when eating to help limit the possibility of transmission.

“I know that this holiday is very important, it’s part of our culture, but it’s also very important that we do this in a safer manner than we have in the past,” Romero said. “We don’t want to see these numbers increase after the holidays.”

Arkansas Department of Health Guidelines for Thanksgiving

The Arkansas Department of Health reported more than 2,100 new cases of the virus yesterday, the third highest single-day increase in cases. Daily case counts have increased throughout November. More than 1,000 new cases were reported on 19 days this month. On four of those days, the count exceeded 2,000.

More cases can lead to more hospitalizations, which are already putting stress on the state’s health care system. ADH reported a record 988 hospitalizations yesterday. 

“We have the potential to overload our health care system if we do not act appropriately,” Romero said.

More than 2,200 Arkansans have died from the virus. Nearly 17 percent of the deaths are Black Arkansans, 4.5 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Dr. Romero is urging health precautions as a way to combat the spread of the virus until a vaccine is available. A vaccine that’s seeking emergency use approval from the Federal Drug Administration is undergoing review Dec. 10. Once a vaccine is approved, an allotment will be shipped to Arkansas, but Romero said it will not be enough to cover the entire state.

“It will be the beginning of vaccination of our health care providers and high risk individuals but again, will not be sufficient for everybody within the state,” he said. “We should be receiving more and more vaccine over the first few months, but it will not be until either the second quarter or beginning of the third quarter of next year that we have enough for everybody.”

More information about the virus is available at the Arkansas Department of Health’s website

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.