COVID-19 task force encourages caution around Thanksgiving gatherings; free testing this weekend

COVID-19 task force encourages caution around Thanksgiving gatherings

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thanksgiving Day is one week away, and there’s an urgent plea from federal and local officials to shrink the size of your celebrations as COVID-19 cases surge.

The CDC put out new guidance Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. They’re encouraging Americans not to travel, and they said gatherings that do go on should be held outdoors with masking and social distancing.

The area’s COVID-19 task force said you should only celebrate with those who live inside your household.

“Please consider how your gatherings could contribute to the spread of COVID-19,” said Tiffany Collins, with the City of Memphis. “We would like for you to consider only spending this holiday only with those in your immediate household.”

The city-county COVID-19 task force is monitoring a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, with health department officials Thursday saying the new seven-day average of cases sits at just under 450 new cases in the county per day.

The health department said 86% of the county’s 684 deaths occurred in people older than 55, with 67% of cases in people ages 18-54. They are statistics to keep in mind ahead of a holiday when the virus could be easily spread through family generations.

“Younger people are getting infected, and older people are dying and that’s the problem,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, the county’s health officer.

Ahead of Thanksgiving the city is hosting free testing events at four sites this weekend.

Free testing sites in Shelby County
Free testing sites in Shelby County (Source: City of Memphis)

Amid the rising numbers, the health department is also considering new restrictions on businesses. The county’s health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph did not get into specifics Thursday but said an announcement on that should come no later than Monday.

Randolph indicated masking in establishments and capacity restrictions would likely be a focus.

“At this stage we must mask up so we can remain open,” he said. “If we are going to remain open, we’ve got to do this right.”

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