Experts wait to see if Thanksgiving gatherings cause COVID-19 spike, offer guidance

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INDIANAPOLIS — Despite warnings from top health experts to avoid gatherings, many Hoosiers are on their way home from Thanksgiving festivities.

“If your family traveled, you have to assume that you were exposed and you became infected,” said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.

Health officials are now sending a new warning following Thanksgiving as they prepare to assess whether or not it became a super-spreader event.

“When people are mobile and they are around and in close contact with others, such as when you’re traveling through an airport or on an airplane, there is an increased risk for infection,” said Dr. Shaun Grannis, VP of data and analytics at Regenstrief Institute.

The Marion County Public Health Department says the ideal time for testing is five to seven days after exposure. If you go too early, you may not get a positive result because there isn’t enough of the virus in your system yet.

“We know that symptoms can occur two to 14 days after exposure. So, if exposure occurs on Thanksgiving Day we would expect that anywhere from two to 14 days after that we will see an increase in the number of cases,” said Dr. Grannis.

Experts recommend you quarantine for 14 days and monitor symptoms before getting tested. But there are exceptions.

“If they are not having symptoms but believe that they potentially been exposed, then that’s still grounds to get tested, and they should pursue testing,” said Dr. Grannis.

The health department adds that if you develop symptoms and test positive, immediately notify the host of the gathering and others who attended about possible exposure. 

Researchers say it could be nearly two weeks before we know whether or not there is a spike due to Thanksgiving travel. 

“And we should shortly after that, we should if we’re going to see an increase in hospitalizations, we’ll see it in that similar time period, perhaps lagging by a few days,” said Dr. Grannis.

Researchers are watching closely after seeing the largest travel period since the start of the pandemic.

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