Doctors are issuing yet another warning that traditional Thanksgiving gatherings this year could be a death sentence for members of our community.
Experts said you may look and feel well – but could still have COVID-19 and transmit it to others.
According to the latest CDC information, asymptomatic or presymptomatic people (meaning those who are contagious with coronavirus but aren't showing symptoms yet) are estimated to account for more than 50 percent transmissions.
"One phrase from one of the health officers I’ve spoken with which was ‘you might have to miss Thanksgiving, but you won’t have to go to a funeral at Christmas,' and I think that’s very grim," said Dr. Ann Marie Kimball, an infectious disease doctor and a retired UW professor.
Kimball is communicating what many experts have affirmed: that indoor Thanksgiving gatherings are incredibly dangerous. Especially if those who have COVID-19 (and don't know it) feel fine -- giving some a false sense of security and leading to letting down their guard.
"You can be sick, that is to say, infected, for five to seven days before you begin to really feel sick," Kimball said.
Kimball said it takes time for people to develop symptoms after contracting coronavirus. She said 25 percent of people who get virus will be asymptomatic throughout their period which stretches two weeks.
"You just have to assume that everybody could be sick without you knowing and protect each other anyways," said Chloe Hancock, who lives in Ballard.
Hancock and her daughter Nikayla Dietz said they are playing it safe this year, canceling their typical Thanksgiving dinner. They were surprised to hear how much asymptomatic cases contribute to overall transmissions.
"Yeah, it’s crazy. I feel like there’s a lot of people out there that – they don’t even realize that they’re sick, and they’re just going around, hanging out," said Dietz.
Doctors I interviewed say holding small gatherings outdoors – where everyone wears masks and distances – is much safer and reduces the risk of transmission significantly. However, Dr. Ali Mokdad with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said he would like to see even those low-risk gatherings banned as well to keep our community safe.
"If we are outdoor and wearing our mask and staying away from each other, yes we can reduce the risk of circulation of the virus tremendously, but still not zero," said Mokdad.
Remember, indoor gatherings outside your immediate household are banned in Washington right now, except under strict quarantining requirements. Mokdad said holiday gatherings can become super-spreader events.
"We could see a rise in infection because we met together at home around a meal where we took off our mask and we allowed somebody to infect the rest of the family members," Mokdad said.