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«Ce n’est pas le moment de se détendre» - Les médecins de la tomodensitométrie demandent une extrême prudence pendant les vacances

Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu is keeping his Thanksgiving intimate this year. It will just be him and his immediate family.

Along with the rest of the state, Ogbuagu is adjusting to the idea of a holiday without physical closeness. Despite the emotional toll that may take, the doctor has seen the reality of spiking COVID-19 cases at Yale New Haven Hospital, where more patients are coming in every day to be treated for the virus.

Ogbuagu’s line of work has left him uniquely attuned to the realities of coronavirus.

“Positivity rates… even in Connecticut are going up to numbers that rival what happened earlier in the year,” he said. “It’s as bad as it ever has been.”

First and foremost, a 10-person gathering — the limit set by the governor — is far too big for Ogbuagu, who runs clinical trials for HIV at Yale University. More recently Ogbuagu became the principal investigator for Yale’s COVID-related clinical trials, running tests on the drug remdesivir, which is now FDA approved, and on the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Having any type of large or small gathering, to the doctor, increases the likelihood of community spread, especially if people are traveling for the occasion.

“I think this is not the time to relax, frankly,” he said. “It is not the time to almost revert back.”

One person exposed to the virus could put many at risk, he said. That risk only increases in an inter-generational crowd like the kind that holidays foster.

Ogbuagu is skeptical of quarantining before a family event, too. Even a recent negative test followed by quarantine doesn’t completely protect someone from contracting or spreading the virus, he said. Quarantining often comes with trips to the grocery store or to the pharmacy, where exposure can still happen.

Gov. Ned Lamont rolled the state back to Phase 2.1 of his coronavirus reopening plan on Nov. 6. The decision placed further restrictions on private gatherings both indoors and outside. In the warmer months, the state encouraged people to keep indoor gatherings below 25 people and outdoor gatherings under 150.

Now, any type of event is capped at 10.

Ogbuagu is keeping his Thanksgiving intimate this year. It will just be him and his immediate family, he said.

Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UConn Health, thinks 10 is an arbitrary number meant to give people a point of reference this holiday season.

“The reality is the fewer the better,” he said. “And you certainly don't want it to be more than 10.”

That figure should only shrink if people must travel to be there, such as college students coming home for the semester, he said.

On top of state-issued mandates, the Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines on celebrating Thanksgiving safely on Thursday.

“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” reads the most up-to-date guideline.

The CDC’s other recommendations include:

Getting a flu shot before traveling, if travel is necessary.

Staying six feet apart from anyone who you do not live with while celebrating.

Providing your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils for any gathering you attend.

Avoiding communal spaces where food is prepared or handled.

Celebrating outside in a small group of people.

For people who still yearn for festivities with those who live far away, the CDC encourages celebrating virtually and watching Thanksgiving rituals — like movies, sports or parades — from home.

When Dieckhaus contemplated having a family gathering this Thanksgiving, he put many conditions in place. He called his two adult sons who both live in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to have a serious discussion about what the holiday might look like.

“When you're in your bedroom, you don’t have to worry about wearing a mask. If you're out of the bedroom with your family, mask only,” he remembers saying to them.

That rule was only the tip of the iceberg. People would eat in pods according to their households. Mingling in the kitchen would not be permitted, he said.

His sons decided against coming to Connecticut for Thanksgiving, in part because of all the restrictions and precautions it would entail. For the first time in a long time, Dieckhaus’s holiday will just be him, his wife and the dog.

The larger family will convene over Zoom and watch the National Dog Show together virtually, he said.

COVID-19 isn’t just a workplace concern for Dieckhaus — it’s affecting his loved ones just as spread starts to ramp up again.

“My very elderly, very frail mother has a direct exposure now in the nursing home. My stepfather actually has it actively right now, who is elderly and fragile as well. And my nephew — my brother’s son — has actively got it right now,” said Dieckhaus.

In his household, Thanksgiving falls in second place to Christmas, so his family is hoping to safely gather in late December, something he thinks is more worthy of a strict quarantine. The delay in holiday festivities, he hopes, will only make Christmastime sweeter.

“The thought was the value added for Christmas was going to substantial enough that they probably are going to come,” he said. “We decided to focus on just one holiday, kind of brief exposure, and, hopefully, do it safely.”



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