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“Rethink Thanksgiving”: Local Hospital Officer Asks Community To Change Holiday Plans Amid Pandemic

Ben Frankse
Wikimedia Commons

The chief clinical officer for Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital in Paducah is urging families in western Kentucky to reconsider plans for Thanksgiving due to COVID-19 concerns. 

In a recent column, co-written by hospital president Mike Yungmann, hospital leaders urged for increased caution and safety during the pandemic, even in the wake of “COVID-19 fatigue”. In an interview with Chief Clinical Officer Jenny Franke, she said family holidays would only increase the spread.


“As an organization, we understood that we live in an unfortunate time in public health history where we were seeing a definite surge in our cases of COVID in western Kentucky at a time where people are weary of a pandemic,” she said.


Franke explained that “COVID-19 fatigue” is a desire to go back to a sense of normal after months of social distancing, wearing masks, and other preventative measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, Franke said it is important to remember the pandemic will eventually end.


“It’s challenging and difficult to refrain from those things. We naturally want to drift back to doing those things. They give us joy, they support us,” Franke said. “So, I think that’s the nature of the fatigue. It’s very important to continue to remind the public that there will ultimately be an endpoint to this. It’s just not tomorrow or next week.” 


As one of more than 90 “red zone”counties in Kentucky with critical COVID spread,  Franke said transmission during family gatherings would be widespread.. 


“COVID-19 can be present in any population within the region. And when we get together inside with larger numbers of people, particularly a meal, you can’t wear a mask and drink and eat,” she said. “It’s a vulnerable location, it’s a vulnerable distance, you’re with those folks for a longer period of time. We cannot assume that because they are our friends, or family, or loved ones that they don’t have COVID.” 


Social bubbles were also a concern for Franke. In the column, she noted how social bubbles, or small groups of people who choose to have close contact with each other, can give a sense of false security, as many people may come into close contact with those who have coronavirus but remain asymptomatic. This, Franke said, can contribute to spread across entire communities. 


“Unfortunately, they are making a choice that is putting others at risk, and those others may be their own family members. And really, none of us wants to be in a position to later on look back and say, ‘Gosh, I really regret that decision, I wish I had done things differently.’”


Ultimately, Dr. Franke said there were other ways to safely celebrate Thanksgiving this year. 


“We can spend time with a smaller group of friends and family, maybe go on a hike, go on a walk, or use the technology that has been developed and do some sort of a zoom call gathering for people who might have come in from out of town but we can still see them and hear them and enjoy being together virtually,” she said.


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