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Douglas J. Apple, David Lanning and Jake O'Shea column: Rethink Thanksgiving for a COVID-safe holiday
Simple Plea

Douglas J. Apple, David Lanning and Jake O'Shea column: Rethink Thanksgiving for a COVID-safe holiday

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Virus Outbreak Canada

A person wearing a face mask had their temperature checked as they entered a store in a shopping mall in Montreal this past weekend. Cases have climbed across Canada since the country’s Thanksgiving holiday in mid-October.

By Douglas J. Apple, David Lanning and Jake O’Shea

We’ve heard it time and time again — we need to wear masks, maintain social distance, wash our hands and avoid large gatherings — but as evidenced by our ever-growing case numbers, COVID-19 fatigue has set in across our community. As we enter the holiday season, it’s time to redouble our efforts to keep COVID-19 at bay, even if that means rethinking the way we celebrate special occasions in 2020.

We rapidly are approaching a quarter-million deaths from COVID-19 across the country. These are loved ones who never will get married, see their children graduate from college or hold their grandchildren. We’ve become numb to the numbers and allowed other global news to grab our attention, but we cannot lose sight of the urgency of this pandemic.

For many, the idea of creating social bubbles has given us a false sense of security. The size of our bubbles has grown as people become fatigued by the sacrifices forced by COVID-19. The reality is that it’s almost impossible to keep most bubbles pure. People often come into close contact with those who are COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic, which is one way the virus spreads from bubble to bubble and across entire communities. Infection numbers in our community continue to rise, as our public health officials have confirmed, and COVID-19 will become a significant issue as we enter the holiday season.

We need to act now and recommit to the bold steps we already know will save lives right here in our community. It’s time to rethink Thanksgiving celebrations being planned for this year. Rather than traditional large holiday feasts with friends and family, consider a smaller gathering with your immediate household. Plan gatherings outside if the weather permits. Or use technology to safely connect with friends and loved ones.

We’ve seen the damage COVID-19 can cause as we gather together, and Canada portends a cautionary tale. Case counts are climbing across that country, even in areas under new restrictions. Evidence supports Canadian public health officials citing their Thanksgiving holiday, which took place on the second Monday of October, as the reason for the spike.

Now, think about the loved ones and friends you want to invite to your Thanksgiving table. Are any of them dispensable? If you make the right choice this year, you will increase the odds that those whom you love still will be around to join you next Thanksgiving and many more to come.

As health professionals dedicated to serving the greater Richmond community and the commonwealth, our plea is simple: Put the safety of your family and your community first, as an act of love and gratitude for everyone you care about.

One more thing: Don’t forget to wear a mask every time you leave your home. Practice social distancing when you are at work, at school or socializing with others. Regularly wash your hands with soap and water, and when you can’t, use hand sanitizer. These three simple measures already have saved tens of thousands of lives. If everyone sticks with them, they will save hundreds of thousands more.

The time to commit is now. Your own life and the lives of those whom you love are depending on it.

Douglas J. Apple is interim chief clinical officer of the Bon Secours Richmond market, which employs more than 9,200 people and 420 providers in the Bon Secours Medical Group. Contact him at:

David Lanning is interim chief medical officer of VCU Medical Center, which is the academic medical center for VCU Health System, and the commonwealth’s largest safety net hospital and Level I trauma center. Contact him at:

Jake O’Shea is division chief medical officer of HCA Healthcare’s Capital Division, which operates 14 hospitals, 27 outpatient centers, five freestanding emergency rooms and is affiliated with 3,000 physicians across Virginia. Contact him at:


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