To keep family and friends safe, forgo the usual holiday gatherings this year: Experts

To keep family and friends safe, forgo the usual holiday gatherings this year: Experts

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii medical experts are urging residents to rethink traditional Thanksgiving celebrations with COVID-19 cases already ticking up.

They’re encouraging everyone to limit indoor gatherings to household members only.

Lisa Downing, infection prevention director at Kona Community Hospital, said most exposures the health facility is seeing were linked to people sharing meals.

“When you’re eating, the mask does come off," she said.

Mike Rembis, CEO at Maui Health, suggests a virtual Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. “Spend as much time as we can in a virtual setting and say we’ll make it up next year," he said.

Neighbor Island hospitals were pushed to the brink this summer, especially following Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

Now, with a series of festive occasions coming up, medical experts fear another surge.

“We’re very concerned," said Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

"What will happen over Thanksgiving and over Christmas and New Year’s, when people get together. They want to celebrate. They’re frustrated with not being around family and friends.”

The health community says they don’t want to sound like the Grinch, but staying away from loved ones is the way to keep each other safe during the pandemic.

“Think about it, is it really necessary for us to gather this year?" asked Elena Cabatu, of the Hilo Medical Center.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the county could possibly move to Tier 3 by Thanksgiving, which would allow gatherings of up to 10 people. Even so, Caldwell said that is still not recommended.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.