‘DON’T DO IT’: Rhode Island doctor warns against indoor Thanksgiving gatherings with those outside your household

“This is going to light a million new fires and devastate families across the country.”

A Boston EMS ambulance EMT emerges from the back of an ambulance  in April.
–John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe, File

If you’re moving forward with Thanksgiving plans despite COVID-19 that include guests beyond your immediate household, a Rhode Island emergency room doctor has an urgent message for you: Don’t do it.

Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician for Brown Emergency Medicine and director of the Brown Lifespan Center for Digital Health, raised concerns on Twitter over the weekend about the attitude toward holiday gatherings, flagging a recent survey in which 38 percent of Americans said their plans included 10 people or more.

“This gives me heart palpitations,” Ranney wrote, sharing the poll. “Folks. DON’T DO IT. This is going to light a million new fires and devastate families across the country.

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“DO NOT DO INDOORS THANKSGIVING with people who aren’t part of your immediate household,” she added. “I’m begging you.”

The doctor emphasized there is “so much evidence” that both small and large “family” gatherings drive the spread of COVID-19, pointing to a Maine wedding that led to 177 infections and 7 deaths, a three-week family gathering where 11 individuals of 14 staying in a house got sick, and a New Jersey family get together that resulted in the deaths of five of its members.

“I could go on, and on, and on,” Ranney wrote of the examples. “The short version, though? JUST DON’T DO IT. You are putting your family’s and your own health at risk.”

If “you must” do an in-person Thanksgiving or holiday celebration, Ranney recommended it take place outdoors, for a limited time, with six feet of social distancing, and separate food dishes for those outside your household. Or, opt for a virtual celebration.

The United States surpassed 11 million cases on Sunday, according to The New York Times, with the nation now reporting an average of 1,100 deaths a day. The daily average of newly reported cases has surged up 80 percent from the numbers reported two weeks ago.

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The situation in hospitals is already dire, Ranney warned on CNN on Sunday, describing the circumstances in her own emergency room as “horrific” as cases continue to rise. More than 69,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the COVID Tracking Project. COVID-19 has killed more than 237,000 people across the country since the pandemic began.

“Right now, our hospitals and our ERs are at the breaking point and we are on the edge of what is the worst possible thing for a health care provider, which is to not be able to help,” she said. “We are literally running out of beds in the hospital. We’re running out of intensive care unit beds, dialysis machines. We are exhausted. We are seeing our colleagues get sick.”

When a patient is really sick with COVID-19, Ranney stressed it is “not like watching an episode of E.R.,” packed with excitement and drama.

“It is a quiet and sad death,” she said. “We are looking at patients who can’t see their families to say goodbye. It’s just the beeping of a machine, the sound of a ventilator, and those last ditch efforts we make to try to save them, knowing that there’s so little that we can do. It is an absolutely heartbreaking moment for all of us in health care, not just doctors and nurses. But all of our support staff, our techs, our respiratory therapists. Even the housekeeping staff. They’re just worn out and tired and scared of what’s coming next.”

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