For weeks, the Illinois Department of Public Health has echoed Thanksgiving coronavirus guidance heard around the country from health care professionals and public officials: Don't travel and limit gatherings to those you already live with.
With Thanksgiving now upon us, last-minute warnings aim to prevent Thanksgiving from becoming a "super-spreader" holiday that dangerously elevates hospitalizations and the number of coronavirus deaths.
"We don’t have to have 'super spreader' events at homes throughout our state and throughout the country and bring it back," Illinois' Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said this week. "Please reconsider your plans and be part of the solution to decrease infections, instead of part of the plan to increase them."
To underscore this point, the IDPH produced a graphic, "On the 14th day of COVID," to show the potential spread of the virus.
The graphic lays out a 14-day scenario in which a fictitious person named Joe becomes exposed to coronavirus. On Day 5, Joe feels well and gets a negative COVID-19 test. He is, likely unknowingly, contagious and attends Thanksgiving dinner with 17 family members. He develops symptoms on Day 10 and gets a positive test, and on Days 13 and 14, according to this scenario, 10 of the 17 family members who attended Thanksgiving with Joe develop symptoms and test positive.
"Just remember a negative test does not get you a free pass to celebrate Thanksgiving in person," Ezike said last week. "The safest way to celebrate with your loved ones and your cherished elderly relatives is to do it virtually."
Despite similar guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, large crowds and lines formed for several days at O’Hare International Airport as travelers prepared to depart Chicago ahead of Thanksgiving.
“No one is 6 feet apart. Everyone is kind of 3 feet apart or 2 feet apart. It’s horrible,” said O’Hare passenger Sidney Morgan.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday said it's not too late to change your Thanksgiving plans.