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There’s Still Time To Change Holiday Plans, Officials Plead: ‘Better To Have A Zoom Thanksgiving Than An ICU Christmas’

It's not too late to change your plans, officials said. They fear Thanksgiving dinners could turn into superspreader events that will result in many more people becoming sick and dying.

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CHICAGO — Please don’t celebrate Thanksgiving with people outside your household, officials said in a last-minute plea to all Chicagoans Wednesday.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned Chicago — and the rest of the United States — could see a deadly surge in cases if people don’t practice social distancing over the holiday. The city is already in the grips of a second wave of the disease, which is killing about 100 Chicagoans per week.

“It’s better to have a Zoom Thanksgiving than an ICU Christmas,” Arwady said at a Wednesday news conference. “It’s true. And I want you to think about that as you’re making your decisions not just for Thanksgiving, but for Black Friday” and afterward.

The city’s leaders and state officials, like Gov. JB Pritzker Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, have made similar pleas for weeks. They fear Thanksgiving dinners could turn into superspreader events that will result in many more people becoming sick and dying.

About 40 percent of people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms — which means people can unknowingly spread the virus to their family and friends at Thanksgiving and other gatherings. Ezike has said even a negative coronavirus test doesn’t mean it’s safe to celebrate outside your household.

RELATED: A Negative Coronavirus Test Doesn’t Mean You Can Safely Gather For Thanksgiving, State’s Top Doc Says

Their fears have been magnified because this fall wave of coronavirus is already worse than what the state experienced in the spring.

Up to one in every 17 Chicagoans has active, infectious COVID-19 right now, Arwady said. Hospitals around the state have been filling up quickly. And most new cases are coming from friends and family getting together without wearing masks and social distancing, officials have said.

Instead, people can safely celebrate Thanksgiving by making food and delivering it to loved ones, but staying — and eating — apart, Ezike said.

“Please, we just don’t want this Thanksgiving to be a tragedy, and that every Thanksgiving after that, that will mark the anniversary of when a loved one was infected and maybe even worse,” Ezike said at a Tuesday news conference. “We don’t want that memory to be a Thanksgiving memory. Let’s do it different in 2020, please.”

Canada saw a surge in its own COVID-19 cases after its Thanksgiving celebrations in October, Arwady said. But Canada’s outbreak before the holiday was more in control than the United States’ is, meaning “our potential for a surge is much greater,” Arwady said.

“It’s not too late to change” plans for Thursday, she said.

The officials have said their own plans have changed in light of the pandemic: Arwady said she’ll celebrate Thanksgiving alone. Lightfoot won’t celebrate with her 92-year-old mother and other extended family. Pritzker will celebrate in Chicago with his son, away from his wife and daughter.

“The virus and the way it spreads links all of us,” Lightfoot said. “All of us have to be in this together because everything that we do affects someone that we come in proximate contact with.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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