The American people will face the tragedy of people dying of COVID due to Thanksgiving celebrations that took place against the official advice weeks before the vaccines can be released. Experts have now urged people to postpone regular Christmas celebrations to prevent record numbers of infections and deaths.
Speaking in Washington on Newsday, Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of demography and public health at the University of Oxford, UK, said: “All deaths are tragic, but the risk of gathering [during the vacation season]and then losing a family member who may die within weeks of vaccination would be particularly heartbreaking. No one wants to be shot in the trenches while the peace agreement is being signed.
On Newsday in Washington, Manisha Juthani, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine, said: “As a doctor of infectious diseases, it is extremely tragic to know that there are preventable deaths from public health interventions on the horizon that we can do now while waiting for vaccine uptake in the coming months. It will not surprise me when we have over 3,000 deaths per day in a month.
America’s COVID deaths could equal 9/11 every day until Christmas
“I expect that we will mark our vacation season and the New Year with a record number of hospitalizations and deaths, while ironically administering vaccines at the same time.
The US is in the desperate position of breaking records for COVID deaths and hospitalizations amid promises that vaccines are still weeks away from being gradually introduced for the most vulnerable and possibly by spring for the general public.
After months of clinical trials, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies Pfizer and Moderna recently asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to bring their vaccines to market, hoping for emergency approval later in December.
While their applications are being reviewed, over 100,000 people with COVID are in hospital on Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project – almost twice as many as at the first peak in the spring, followed by a decline to about 29,000 in September. On Wednesday, 2,760 deaths were recorded, the New York Times reported, breaking the record of 2,752 set in the spring.
The following graph, provided by Statista, illustrates the sharp increase in current COVID-related hospital admissions in the United States.
In light of these figures, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, predicted in a speech to the Chamber of Commerce Foundation on Wednesday that COVID could kill “almost” 450,000 people by the end of January. The death toll is currently over 270,000, the highest in the world.
Experts said on Newsday in Washington that some Thanksgiving parties that were held against the advice of the CDC, which recommended that the celebrations be kept in homes, were likely to be overarching events. With deaths lagging up to four weeks behind cases, the resulting deaths could be seen in the coming weeks.
By Christmas, they expect the number of deaths per day to equal September 11. Fearing that Christmas and other winter celebrations could trigger a similar pattern, they urged people to rethink celebrating as they normally would.
Unknown side effects of the COVID vaccine may occur after the vaccination of millions of people
At a press celebration on Wednesday, Cindy Friedman of the CDC’s travel industry said the safest option was to postpone winter travel during the upcoming holidays and stay home, much like over Thanksgiving.
She said that the volume of travel over Thanksgiving is high, and even if a small percentage of these people were sick, it would result in hundreds of thousands of infections.
Juthani said, “What we do now is more likely to affect hospital admissions and deaths in January. There may still be an impact by the end of December, so it is never too late to make a difference in the number of lives saved,” Juthani said.
The CDC recommends that people protect themselves from the virus by, among other things, frequently washing their hands, staying at least one meter away from people outside their own homes, and wearing a mask in public, especially when it is difficult to maintain social distance.
“All maskless celebrations around food are high-risk events that lead to asymptomatic spread, symptomatic cases, hospitalization and death,” said Juthani. “Even if no one gets sick at your Thanksgiving dinner, it is likely that someone was asymptomatic, infected someone else who went back to work, perhaps with immunocompromised patients like in a nursing home, and infected even more people. The same scenario is very likely for Christmas and New Year’s Eve”.
She continued: “Vaccines are on the way. We can postpone the meetings a bit longer so that we can all start to find some kind of normality in the coming months,” she continued.
The USA had more COVID deaths in one day than the total number of deaths in 36 countries
Peter Drobac, a physician and specialist in infectious diseases and public health at the Saïd Business School of Oxford University, UK, told Washington Newsday: “It is tragic [that people die], not least because access to effective vaccines seems so close.
“It’s tragic because most of these deaths could be avoided if we just started with the basics. No other country suffers as much as this one”.
Drobac said that Thanksgiving travel and parties “poured gasoline on the fire” to fight the pandemic. “Unless we find safer ways to celebrate the upcoming holidays, more people will die. It is as simple as that. I hate to sound so grim and grinning. But we are so close to turning the corner.”
He advised people to make sacrifices during this vacation season “so that our loved ones will still be there for the next holidays”.
Drobac continued: “It’s not about canceling Christmas, it’s about celebrating differently. Gather outdoors when you can, and on Zoom when you can’t. Celebrate a second time in spring when it is safer. Doesn’t a barbecue for Thanksgiving in May sound wonderful? How about a New Year’s Eve fire on the summer solstice?
“Let’s be smart, all we have to do is get through the winter and it will be light already.