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Keep Thanksgiving dinner inside quarantine bubble, Houston hospital leaders plead

Chron logo Chron 11/24/2020 Alison Medley
a hand holding a glass of wine: "Work to create a holiday bubble with immediate family members and embrace some caution," Houston Methodist's CEO and President Dr. Marc Boom stressed that the safest way to celebrate the holiday for high-risk people would be virtual. © © Corbis

"Work to create a holiday bubble with immediate family members and embrace some caution," Houston Methodist's CEO and President Dr. Marc Boom stressed that the safest way to celebrate the holiday for high-risk people would be virtual.

"Don't invite COVID-19 to your dinner table."

That's the advice Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner gave last week, and it's being echoed across the Texas Medical Center. Amid the escalation of recent COVID-19 cases in Harris County, a Houston hospital leader is urging that residents keep a quarantine bubble of only immediate family members to share your Thanksgiving feast.

"Work to create a holiday bubble with immediate family members and embrace some caution," Houston Methodist CEO and President Dr. Marc Boom told Chron. "There are safe and less safe ways to celebrate the holiday. The safest way for highest risk people is virtual. We'll have beautiful weather, so think about eating outside."

Dr. Boom also advised parents of college-aged students to get their kids tested for the virus if they are traveling home for Thanksgiving.

"We will have my college-aged son tested with a nasal PCR test," Boom said. "It's important to do a risk benefit-profile to think this through this. For him to be in the family bubble, we will have him tested. We'll still use common sense and caution. I'm much less worried about my college-aged son to be in contact with us, but he won't come into contact with his 80-year-old grandmother."

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The recent spike in COVID-19 patients across the Texas Medical Center has caused serious concern among Houston medical professionals, Dr. Boom added.

"We have started to see a pretty significant uptick," Dr. Boom said. "It's about a 50 percent increase in our volume in patients with COVID-19 in a 10-day period. That obviously has us concerned. We want to see that number come down."

The uptick that Houstonians are seeing now is due in part to complacency, Dr. Boom said.

"What we're really seeing is those times when we've let our guard down: small gatherings, family gatherings, social gatherings," Boom said. "Bars and restaurants have always been a concern for health professionals, and they continue to be. It's difficult if not impossible in some of those settings to physically distance and to have a mask on at all times."

The overriding concern is that Houstonians get together outside of their quarantine bubble, there will be a surge in cases, according to Memorial Hermann's Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Linda Yancey.

"The reason why we’re urging people to stay home over Thanksgiving is that we don’t want to get into a situation where we're overwhelming the hospital system. We don’t want to fill up our hospitals with COVID-19 cases," Yancey said.

Dr. Yancey urged Houstonians to steer clear of getting together socially this Thanksgiving.

"These two major holidays are occurring when we are seeing surges all around country," Yancey said. "The last thing we want is another spike. This is the year that we're asking Americans to truly sacrifice and not to get together socially. It is a bad idea to get together in person this year."

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