Research: Thanksgiving gatherings could cause hundreds of COVID deaths

The Institute for Disease Modeling released new models that show the growing impact of COVID in Washington State. The rate of increase is similar to what researchers saw at the beginning of the pandemic.

Research shows the prevalence of COVID in Washington could reach 1 percent by Thanksgiving. With a population of about 7.6 million, that means 76,000 residents could have COVID on Thanksgiving. Of those with the virus, 25,000 to 40,000 of them wouldn’t know they were sick and could bring it to Thanksgiving dinner. Of those sick with COVID on Nov. 26, 450 of them could be dead by New Year’s Eve, according to models created by the Institute for Disease Modeling.

“The rate of growth we’re seeing from the middle of October to now is something we haven’t seen since March. There’s been a real change in the dynamic, and it’s happening all over the state. There’s a lot more acceleration in COVID transmission,” said Mike Famulare, a principal research scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling. “Not just on Thanksgiving, but going forward, to get this under control, we need to scale back what we’ve been doing.”

Health experts are urging people not to gather for Thanksgiving with anyone outside their household as cases climb.

Dr. Elizabeth Wako, the chief operating officer of Swedish First Hill, said the hospital had 10 COVID patients admitted within 5 hours on Wednesday. She says the number of COVID patients has tripled since Halloween.

“Our teams are tired, they are fatigued, they are resilient and we will continue to fight COVID,” said Wako. “Outside of one’s household, do not have people over for Thanksgiving. I cannot overemphasize how important this is to keep our numbers down and ensure capacity in our hospitals so we can deliver care.”

She also said the hospital has started canceling inpatient elective surgeries to be able to handle an increase in COVID patients.

On Wednesday the Department of Health addressed the alarming spread of COVID and urged people to stay home.

“With disease rates and trends where they are now, it is simply too dangerous to gather right now,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, the Washington State Department of Health’s spokesperson.