NC health experts say get vaccinated, enjoy Thanksgiving

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci gave the green light for vaccinated Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving in person.

"If you get vaccinated and your family's vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends," Fauci said on Monday during an interview hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

His advice comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are slowly increasing across the country. The ABC COVID-19 Tracker shows cases have increased by around 12% over the last week.

On Monday, North Carolina reported around 258 more daily cases than the previous Monday.

Fauci warns people to continue to take cautions to avoid spreading the virus.

"When you go to indoor congregate settings, go the extra mile. Be safe, wear a mask," he said on Monday. "But when you're with your family at home, goodness, enjoy it with your parents, your children, your grandparents. There's no reason not to do that."

Locally, North Carolina health experts are sending a similar message. Two health professionals ABC11 that spoke with on Monday shared they would be celebrating the upcoming holiday in person.

"I would want to spend it with people who are vaccinated," said Dr. Susha Kapoor, Southern Regional Area Health Education Center CEO. "We're trying to set up a tent outside so it's more of an outdoor event for us. We'll try to do it the best we can. I think the vaccination part is the critical part."

Currently, around 60% of North Carolinians are reportedly partially vaccinated.

"That means that there are millions of people in our state who are not vaccinated and there are also people coming from other states into North Carolina that have different rules that they've been living with," explained Dr. Mehul Mankad, the Chief Medical Officer for Alliance Health. "And so I think, as we get together, it's important to sort those things out in advance and just to have frank conversations."

Cross-country travel, merging multiple households, vaccination status, and immunocompromised attendees all impacts the risk and add to the complexity of decisions.

"I think it's important to understand the safety, understand the risks and if you're comfortable going into those environments, for everyone to agree that you're going to focus on what matters to you and not bring your personal decisions about COVID or politics into the forefront of you know what everyone's going to be talking about all night," Mankad said.

Kapoor said while the booster shot can help add a layer of protection it doesn't mean there's a 0% chance of infection.

"If you are worried at all, because of you know, your grandfather's health or your grandmother's health, I would say don't travel and come to them. But that may not always be a very practical option," Kapoor explained.

The health news site, Stat, surveyed 28 infection disease experts about their holiday plans. The results showed experts differed in what they were comfortable with. Almost all reported they would only travel if masks were involved. Around 50% said they would host or attend a Thanksgiving meal and 57% said they would advise elders to not come.

Current CDC guidance recommends unvaccinated people and people who are immunized compromised wear a mask. The guidance further recommends anyone with symptoms avoid gatherings and get tested. The CDC also advises if there are multiple people traveling from across the country additional precautions like dining outside and testing be implemented to further reduce risk.

"This has been a rough ride for all of us. Right? This has been difficult, but really thankful that we have the vaccine and would be able to actually celebrate the holidays. a little closer to normal," Kapoor said.
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