West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor is asking the community to be extremely cautious this year with Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations.
By Ronni Newton
Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally associated with large and perhaps boisterous multi-generational gatherings, meals served family style, lingering around the table over dessert, cramming together on the couch to watch football.
Messages have been coming fast and furious – from the office of Gov. Ned Lamont and even from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – asking the public to avoid many traditional Thanksgiving activities this year in order to prevent even greater spread of COVID-19.
West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor echoed that sentiment in a message to the community Friday afternoon.
As of Thursday, 96% of the state of Connecticut has reached the “red alert” level – triggered when the average daily number of positive COVID-19 cases reaches 15 per 100,000 of population over a 14-day period. Data released on Thursday indicated a rate of 23.6 for West Hartford.
“We’ve hit an unfortunate milestone and have surpassed more than 100k COVID cases since the start of the pandemic. The statewide positivity rate for today is 6.63%,” the governor tweeted Friday afternoon.
Along with the number of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths are also on the rise.
According to the data released by the state Friday, West Hartford now has had 1,500 positive COVID-19 cases, 154 of which have taken place in the past week.
“The next few months will likely be one of the most challenging periods of the pandemic, and we must take the steps necessary to protect our community,” Cantor said in Friday’s message to the community. “Your actions directly impact both those you come in contact with and their extended networks.”
While the governor has mandated private gatherings of no more than 10 people – outdoors as well as indoors – Cantor as well as other officials are asking people to avoid gathering indoors with anyone from outside their household. On Thursday the CDC issued updated guidance regarding Thanksgiving, recommending avoiding travel and other measures for celebrating the holiday safely.
“If you do decide to have guests in your house, you should require everyone to wear a mask, open windows to increase air circulation, and provide for physical distancing between guests. We have to remember this virus is easily transmitted from person-to-person, no matter their age, especially indoors,” Cantor said in her message.
Cantor said her own family gatherings will be greatly impacted this Thanksgiving, but that sacrifice is critically important. Rather than the usual 30-plus people, she said will celebrate the holiday with just three other members of her immediate family.
Cantor is nervous about how the community as a whole will handle the holidays, and the impact likely won’t be fully apparent immediately because of the two-week incubation period for COVID-19. “This is so important that we protect each other, we protect our loved ones, and that we protect the community, too,” she said.
“This is what community spread looks like,” Cantor told We-Ha.com on Friday. “When you have community spread you have to act in a way as if everyone is carrying the virus – anybody you come in contact with is carrying the virus. If you expose yourself you could be generating a ripple effect that can grow exponentially, impacting people around you and putting people’s lives at risk, businesses at risk, schools at risk – all of our quality of life at risk.”
Holiday gatherings can be rescheduled. “A post-holiday spike in infections could directly affect the ability of our schools and businesses to remain open and overburden our health care facilities,” Cantor said.
As college students are in the process of returning for the semester, Cantor asked that families urge them to avoid visiting with friends. The warning applies to high school students as well, because small social gatherings have been identified as some of the most common ways COVID-19 has been spreading in West Hartford, statewide, and nationally.
“It’s not just about you,” she said. “You have to think more globally and about all of the people you are impacting, about that one action of letting your guard down. We are so vulnerable right now.”
West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick, speaking at a ceremony Friday honoring the Exchange Club’s 2020 Police Officer of the Year, said that Thanksgiving is generally the biggest holiday of the year for his family.
“It won’t be that this year,” Riddick said. “We’re staying in our house with our nuclear family. I would encourage you to be safe, be smart, be vigilant, wear your mask. Do not let Thanksgiving become a super spreader. … We want you here safe, we want you healthy and strong.”
Cantor, in her Everbridge message, urged anyone who feels sick to get tested, and to quarantine. Those who are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test must also stay home until those results confirm there is no infection.
Free COVID walk-up testing will be continue to be available in West Hartford for adults and children, every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The testing is held outside, in the upper lot of the Elmwood Community Center which can be accessed from Burgoyne Street.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to practice the three W’s each and every day,” Cantor said. Those W’s are:
- Wear a mask in public
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds, and
- Watch your physical distancing with people outside of your home
“We will get through this together. Better days are just over the horizon, and we’ve come too far to let our guard down now. I am encouraged by the very promising news of safe and effective vaccines in the coming months. But until then we must all take the personal responsibility of keeping our friends and loved ones safe. What we do truly matters,” Cantor said in her messaging, which ended with a wish for a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
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