'Bad decisions' at Thanksgiving will mean deaths of loved ones by New Years, Michigan's top doc says

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun speaks at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Photo credit State of Michigan

(WWJ) While state and federal health officials urge people to stay home for Thanksgiving, Michigan's head doctor is out with a grim warning:

"At the rates we are seeing in the state right now, it is very likely that if you are gathering for Thanksgiving, the virus will also be around the table with you," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive for Michigan.

"Bad decisions made at Thanksgiving will mean people will be mourning the deaths of their loved ones by New Years."

Speaking alongside Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a news conference Thursday, Khaldun said indoor gatherings, even small ones, are a major way that COVID-19 is spreading during this second wave.

She saiid Michiganders should follow clear recommendations laid out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advises all Americans on not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their households.

The smarted thing, Khaldun said, is not to gather -- especially with family and friends who are elderly, or who have underlying health conditions that put them at great risk of serious illness or death.

"Perhaps you can drop some food off on the porch of your loved one so they can enjoy your cooking, but you do not go inside the house," she said. "You can set up virtual conference calls -- you can use Zoom -- so everyone can call in at the same time and say what they are thankful for."

"(Thanksgiving) is certainly one of my favorite holidays," Khaldun said, "but this year it simply has to be different. I am encouraging everyone to please do the right thing."

The doctor said if Michiganders do things right this year, they'll hopefully be able to enjoy the holidays with friends and family in 2021.

More than 7,500 new confirmed coronavirus cases were reported by MDHHS on Thursday. And, as the state's hospitals are filling up with patients, the health department recorded 134 new deaths, including 61 which were identified during a Vital Records review.

The state's percent positive rate is now over 13%, up from under 3% during the summer. A total of 138,862 people who were infected in Michigan are now considered recovered. (More updated stats from the state here).

To help keep yourself and your family safe, Khaldun urges all Michiganders to download the MI COVID Alert app for your mobile phone.

If you use the app you will:
- be alerted if you may have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus
- be able to track any symptoms you have and get advice on what to do to protect yourself and others
- be able to anonymously warn other app users that you were in close contact with, if you test positive for coronavirus.

The app is free. Learn more here.