DPHSS: ‘Spread the love, not the virus as you celebrate Thanksgiving’

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Department of Public Health and Social Services (PNC file photo)

How to ensure your Thanksgiving celebration doesn’t turn into a super spreader event; limiting exposure, testing, staying home when sick, and ventilation are keys

 

With no readily available vaccines, Thanksgiving 2020 was very different for most families. This year, expectations are much higher.

With Guam’s high vaccination rate and decreasing COVID cases, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero felt comfortable gradually easing some restrictions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

But public health and medical experts in the mainland and here on Guam are still urging caution.

Beyond vaccination, layering different protective measures is the best overall strategy, Guam’s Public Health experts say.

Dr. Annette Aguon, DPHSS Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Administrator, said that if you are sick this Thanksgiving, stay at home.

“I know you want to enjoy that family time, but you really want to spread love, not the virus. So just ask for balutan for your Thanksgiving lunch or dinner. If there’s someone with a pre-existing condition, maybe open a window,” Aguon said during a media briefing Wednesday.

Chima Mbakwem, DPHSS chief public health officer, said that although some of the restrictions may have been eased, the COVID prevention strategies have not changed.

“We must not drop our guards. We’ve been very consistent with the messaging about how to keep safe. Aside from vaccination, we should continue wearing our masks and keeping a safe distance. If you’re sick, please stay home, and keep away from other people to minimize the chances of you infecting someone when you’re sick,” Mbakwem said.

He added: “We have to follow all the Public Health guidance that we have out there and protect the younger ones and the older ones.”

Esther Figir, from Public Health’s division of environmental health, also wants to remind everybody to continue their COVID hygiene and maintain distance as much as they can.

“The congregation limits have changed but remain vigilant with COVID hygiene and distances when possible. Continue hand washing, hand sanitation, and hand hygiene as well as frequent cleaning and sanitization of briefly touched surfaces,” Figure said.

She also recommended trying not to socialize outside of your family or friends’ circle.

“Again, as we’ve all been saying, just to reiterate, we’re trying to continue pushing the surge down,” Figure said.

Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, DPHSS Interim Chief Medical Officer, said: “I agree with them that you should stay home if you’re sick. But in addition, if you’re concerned, see your doctor, because if you are having COVID, you may qualify for that monoclonal antibodies treatment, which is very helpful. People usually get well within a day or so. And it does offer some protection of up to about six to eight months. But even if you go there, still stay home.”

The doctor added: “People are tired of me saying the same old thing … wearing the mask, washing hands, social distancing, making sure your family is vaccinated. But that’s just what needs to be done.”

Mbakwem described the gradual easing of some restrictions and the decreasing number of new COVID cases on Guam as a good Thanksgiving gift.

“And I think what we can do is continue to maintain this gift for Thanksgiving and make sure that throughout the holiday period, we continue to follow Public Health’s guidance, get our immunization up, immunize the younger ones, to get to the same number with the adults so that we have the layer protection that we need as an island to sustain these gains that have been made. So the common sense advice is to follow Public Health’s recommendations, wear your mask, get vaccinated, and continue to keep safe.”

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