Doctors watching weeks after Thanksgiving for increases in COVID-19 cases

Major COVID-19 case increase expected in 3 to 5 weeks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported Friday across Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist, said he does expect cases to increase locally as a result of Thanksgiving gatherings.

“We will be seeing the impact of what happened at Thanksgiving, certainly well through the Christmas holiday,” he said.

Public health experts have been warning that Mid-Southerners should limit the number of people they’re around over the Thanksgiving holiday, with an average of roughly 380 new COVID-19 cases daily in Shelby County for the past two weeks.

Dr. Threlkeld said it’s a level of transmission that could pave the way for exponential case growth over the next three to five weeks.

And the city-county COVID-19 task force predicted this week more than 500 people will be in the hospital in Memphis with COVID on Christmas Day.

“People are tired. They count on the holidays to bring some increased joy and togetherness with family in their lives. And that’s sort of been switched off,” Threlkeld said. “This is the most problematic moment, because we are getting together more than we ever would during the other times. And that’s dangerous.”

Dr. Threlkeld acknowledges COVID fatigue is real, and he points to that as the issue. As cases surge locally and nationally, he anticipates more families will have a brush with the virus at the height of the holiday season.

“I think we are just reaching numbers nationally where it is likely to touch a lot more people than it has before. And I just hope it doesn’t take a tragedy in one’s own family to realize this is in a large degree preventable. You just can’t go about your regular daily business to prevent it. You have to take those steps to do it,” he said.

The prevention measures include masking, maintaining social distance, and frequent hand washing.

The city-county COVID-19 task force said this week it is drafting a plan to address a potential nursing shortage in area hospitals if patients with COVID continue to increase in the coming weeks.

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