By Zach Armstrong

PETERSBURG, Va. — Millions of Americans annually travel across miles to visit loved ones, give gratitude, watch parades and enjoy delicious cooking in late November. Coronavirus is making things different this year.

The Crater Health District is urging those in the area to stay at home this Thanksgiving as the best way to protect themselves and others because an increase in travel leads to a higher chance of spreading COVID-19. The CHD is asking those who must travel to take precautions.  

Safety protocols when visiting relatives include wearing a mask, increasing ventilation inside or planning events outside, keeping at least six feet of distance from people and washing one’s hands frequently.

“We want everyone to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. People being close together for extended periods of time and sharing items can increase your risk.”, said Crater Health District Director Alton Hart, Jr. “Please remember to watch your distance, wear a face covering, and wash your hands to protect yourself and others.”

The CHD also is suggesting thanksgiving alternatives such as having a small dinner with family or people you live with, watching sports, events, or movies from home, or having virtual cooking activities to share with friends and family. Video calls are another way to connect with family and friends you cannot visit in-person this year.

“The Crater Health District has identified COVID-19 transmission from small intimate gatherings. Those exposures are similar to the gatherings that Thanksgiving and the holidays bring. It is safest to gather with only those within your home. It is always important to practice social distancing, masking, and proper hand hygiene at all times to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the community.” said Epidemiologist Senior E. Katrina Saphrey.

The city of Petersburg reported 1,029 cases of COVID-19 including 91 hospitalizations and 31 deaths exactly one week before this year’s Thanksgiving. Dinwiddie County had reported 615 cases, including 47 hospitalizations and 13 deaths. Prince George County had reported 1,328 cases, including 29 hospitalizations and 7 deaths.

Gov. Northam issued new COVID-19 restrictions Nov. 13 across the commonwealth amidst a statewide surge in COVID cases. The restrictions included limiting gatherings to 25 individuals, stricter mask requirements for retail businesses and a 10 p.m. curfew for sale and consumption of alcohol.