Health officials warn Thanksgiving could be biggest super spreader event yet


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Health officials statewide are urging people to follow basic health and safety guidance heading into the holiday season.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said transmission statewide has been from clusters happening within households through activities like family gatherings.

“We’re headed for potentially the super spreader holiday of all time, which is Thanksgiving,” Green said. “Thanksgiving is one of the most wonderful holidays but it’s also built to have people together for too long and too close.”

Lt. Gov Green is currently on the mainland and said he’s extremely concerned about what is happening there.

“We should be alarmed about the mainland, I spent the last few days traveling to several large cities, and speaking to people, speaking with health officials and people that are in the industries that are dealing with COVID. And there is a skyrocketing number of cases on the mainland. So, we’re going to have to double down on our sensible decisions in Hawaii to keep it at bay,” Green shared.

With more than 1,400 active cases statewide, Green said hospitalizations could increase rapidly.

“I think we’re going to start seeing a general uptick, like we’ve seen in the last eight or 10 days,” the Lt. Governor said. “That is significant because if you add to that a super-spreader day of Thanksgiving, we could find ourselves back in a very challenging winter.”

On Friday, Queen’s Health System projected a surge starting in October and leading to more than 400 COVID-related hospitalizations by January.   

“If Queen’s gets overrun, and they’re turning people away from care at Queens, we’re going to have a really scary and dangerous situation on our hands,” Senator Jarrett Keohokalole said.

“It’s not meant to scare people,” explained Keohokalole. “It’s meant to raise attention to the fact that we know folks are going to want to gather over the holidays and there are going to be lots of opportunities for big gatherings. We want to prevent that as much as possible so that we can minimize our risk as a community,”

Green highly recommends people remain in their household bubble, meaning only gathering with members of your own household. He also highly discourages people from going house to house to visit relatives.

“If another household bubble joins you for Thanksgiving, you both must wear a mask,” Green advised. “And when you’re eating some fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, you need to spread out to be six feet apart, because you’ll have to take your mask off to dine together. That is so critical because two different bubbles, even if they’re family members, are just as likely to pose a risk as a stranger would.”

“I know people are fatigued, and are tired of all of the rules and having to worry about the virus,” Keohokalole said. “In my family, the tradition is to get together at Thanksgiving, at Christmas, at New Years and hugging and kissing is a normal thing. And so we’re asking people to just take into account the reality.”

He said people should wear masks, gather outside, stay in small groups and limit interactions with people outside of their own household.

“Just for this one holiday season,” Senator Keohokalole urged.

Lt. Gov. Green also suggests people get a test two to three days before Thanksgiving, just to make sure they’re carrying the virus.

“I would also recommend, if you can, find a place to get a test within two or three days of your Thanksgiving holiday it would not be the worst idea. Some of the counties have some extra available tests if your healthcare provider has them, good. But if you have any concern that you’re feeling a little ill, or if you’re feeling cold symptoms, if you have scratchy throat or shortness of breath or anything at all, absolutely don’t go to the family Thanksgiving dinner and get a test beforehand,” Green recommended.

The Lt. Governor and Senator also recommend speaking with family members and kupuna ahead of time to see what they feel is most safe to do for the holidays.

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