Happy Thanksgiving pic

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) understands that traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but they can also increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. Experts say the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household. If you do plan to attend a gathering, bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils; wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking; avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen; and use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) suggests staying home is the best way to protect ourself and others. If you must travel, short trips by car with members of your own household with no stops along the way are considered low risk. Those traveling longer distances by car should remember that many of their favorite “stopping places” may be closed. “Drive-thru only” may also mean restrooms are closed and travelers should plan accordingly.

By now we know COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person, mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes, sings, or talks. People who are infected but do not have symptoms can also spread the virus to others, which is why it’s important that everyone wash their hands, avoid close contact with people outside their household, and cover their mouth and nose with a mask when in public.

At present the CDC does not know the exact source of the current outbreak of COVID-19, but they know that it originally came from an animal, likely a bat. They are still learning about the virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. However, there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19. Research on COVID-19 in animals is limited. Studies are underway to learn more about how this virus can affect different animals.

As of November 9, in the United States, there have been 9,913,553 confirmed cases of COVID-19 detected through U.S. public health surveillance systems in 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands.  The CDC provides updated U.S. case information online daily.

This Thanksgiving, as well as the approaching Christmas holiday will be different, to say the least, but we need to take steps that will keep our loved ones safe. As with any disease, we can be well today and ill tomorrow. DHEC urges South Carolinians to be positive that we’re negative by routinely getting tested if we’re out in the community and to get tested before and after holiday traveling or events.

DHEC testing is free, doesn’t require insurance, and testing options have expanded to include shallow nasal testing, an oral swab, or a saliva test at different locations. With hundreds of testing sites in South Carolina, find a testing location near you by visiting scdhec.gov/findatest or calling 1-855-472-3432. Look for the sites marked “free.” Community partner testing sites may ask about insurance, require referrals or appointments, or be low- or no-cost.