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Not traveling for the holidays is a necessary sacrifice, medical expert says

The coronavirus continues to tear across the U.S. as Americans prepare for the holiday season. With Thanksgiving approaching, there have been a number of warnings about gathering during the pandemic, as health officials say other holidays have been followed by spikes in COVID-19 cases. Dr. Ranit Mishori of Georgetown University School of Medicine joins Amna Nawaz to discuss safety considerations.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we have been reporting, the coronavirus is showing no signs of slowing down or allowing lives to go back to normal, as Americans prepare for the holiday season.

    Thanksgiving is just a week away, and millions will be gathering in new ways. There have been a number of warnings and caveats given about how to approach the holiday.

    Amna Nawaz is here to get more insight about what we should keep in mind.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, health officials have been warning that other holiday gatherings during the pandemic have been followed by spikes in new COVID cases.

    Still, a national survey by Ohio State found that nearly two in five Americans said they will likely attend a Thanksgiving gathering with more than 10 people.

    Here with more information on what you should consider before making your plans is Dr. Ranit Mishori. She's a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and senior medical adviser for Physicians for Human Rights.

    Dr. Mishori, welcome back to the "NewsHour." And thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.

    People are hearing the 10 number from officials, try to limit your gatherings to 10 people. Some people say, look, we have been quarantining. Maybe some have tested negative. What's wrong with gathering with a bigger group this holiday?

    What do you say to those people?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    So, I think, unfortunately, there's — the only way to prevent the transmission of the virus is by limiting the number of people you interact with.

    Ten is sort of a random number that people came up with, but the smaller the number, the better. Part of it is that people are traveling in order to link up with their family members, to see their friends, and the travel is a very problematic issue.

    You can bring disease from counties and states where the epidemic is raging, even if you don't have symptoms. And we know a lot of people can be asymptomatic. You bring it to your small household, small community, and it's enough to have one person who is infected to infect a whole host of other people.

    The number 10 really is just, I think, a proxy to say, limit the number of people. Ten people in a small apartment or a small house is — could be very, very problematic. So don't focus on the number 10.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You mentioned travel. So, what about that?

    College students will want to go home. People who maybe live alone in cities will want to see families. What should people consider and answer for themselves before deciding whether to hit the road or whether just to stay in place?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    I think the best advice I can give anybody and everybody, including my own family members, is not to travel.

    We have made the tough decision for my daughter to not come to our home for this holiday, and for us to be — to not see other family members, and just keep to ourselves. It's a sacrifice.

    But everybody has to make a sacrifice, so that the disease does not spread, And then winter and certainly the Christmas holiday could look much worse.

    So, if you decide to travel — and, again, I can't emphasize enough how much I would recommend not traveling at all — I think you need to consider about — look at the testing protocols for the — in the state that you're traveling to. Think about your mode of transportation.

    Driving is safer than flying, than taking a bus or than taking a train, where you're cramped together with a lot of people. Of course, you need to think about quarantining before leaving, so to make sure that you don't have exposures yourself, that you can then develop the disease, and move on and go on to infecting the people that you're visiting.

    And I — and, of course, taking all of the public health measures, wearing a mask at all times, wearing it correctly over your nose and your mouth, washing your hands, and keeping at least six feet apart from anyone else that you're — you come in contact with.

    And that's very, very important. The distancing is incredibly important.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What about best practices for those who are gathering in whatever small number that they are? Should they wear masks when not eating? Should they increase ventilation? Should they space out seating?

    How do you make it a safer plan this year?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    The best way to do it, I think, would be, number one, if you can have your meal outdoors — and I know some places are going to be very cold — do it outdoors if you can.

    If you have to do it indoors, space yourselves at least six feet apart from one another. Wear a mask indoors with anyone who's not a member of your household. Ask everybody to bring their own food items, to bring their own utensils. Do not share utensils.

    Don't eat off of a buffet-style type of setting, and try to sit apart as much as possible, especially if everybody brings their own plate, their own meal. I think that would be safer. Ventilate. Ventilate. Ventilate. Open the windows. Open the doors. Take a break. Go outside. Come back in.

    Don't stay seated in a small unventilated room for long periods of time.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It will be a holiday unlike any we have seen, but hopefully a safe one for everyone out there.

    Dr. Ranit Mishori, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.

  • Ranit Mishori:

    Thank you so much.

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