Thanksgiving Day Nov. 26 and the Christmas holidays might be events that turn around the COVID-19 resurgence if Americans mask-up at home and do virtual instead of personal gatherings.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America said Americans can make the holidays a turning point in the fight against COVID-19 by masking-up and following the other proven prevention measures such as limiting their family gatherings to the fewest number of people possible and frequent hand-washing.
"Virtual gatherings remain the safest way to bring friends and family together from distant points." the society said in a statement. "Outdoor settings can reduce the risks of gatherings with people outside of your household. We have the resources and the knowledge to stem the spread of this pandemic. Keeping our common cause and shared well-being at the forefront of our holiday celebrations will make a difference."
Other doctors are pleading with Americans to stay at home to celebrate Thanksgiving.
"The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household," said Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Emergency Response.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, asked Americans to limit gatherings, stay apart and wear masks - including indoors - to limit the possibility of asymptomatic spread.
"This is more cases, more rapidly, than what we had seen before," she said. "We're asking every American to remain vigilant, to do those things that we have been asking you all to do: to wear a mask, to physically distance, continue your hand hygiene."
Thanksgiving, however, has all the makings of a super-spreader event given the colder weather and the refusal of many Americans and some states to follow guidelines.
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. on Thursday hit another daily high with 185,759 new infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. The previous record of 177,224 was set Friday.
The seven-day average of new cases is at its highest on record: 161,165 cases a day, or a 27% increase from last week.
A total of 44 states are reporting increases in new cases greater than at least 10% compared with last week.
There were 79,410 hospitalizations reported Wednesday, a record, said the Covid Tracking Project. The U.S. now averages 72,120 hospitalizations over the past seven days - which is a 19.8% increase compared with last week.
The positivity rate has risen to records nationwide and now averages 10% compared with the 5% doctors say is tolerable. Some states are battling outsize positive rates. The rate in South Dakota, Iowa and Wyoming averages above 50%, the country's highest. South Dakota's Republican governor, Kristi Noem refuses to order a mask mandate.
Daily deaths have remained above 1,000 for all except two days from Nov. 10 to Nov. 18. The highest daily death toll in this span came Wednesday at 1,923. There were 1,607 the day before and 796 deaths Monday. More than 252,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since the first confirmed death in February.