WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Just days before Thanksgiving, local lawmakers are urging the public to celebrate the holiday safely, even suggesting that people hold virtual celebrations with family members.
Delivering what she called a "life or death message," U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel said Friday that COVID-19 cases are surging across South Florida.
"The numbers are staggering," Rep. Frankel said. "We have to treat this Thanksgiving differently and as carefully as possibly if you want to make it to the next one."
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Frankel echoed new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to not travel for Thanksgiving, and instead only "celebrate at home with the people you live with."
"Tell your friends, your relatives, even your children who are in school to stay put," Rep. Frankel said.
As an alternative to large, traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, officials on Friday offered the following alternatives:
- Host a small dinner with only members of your household
- Host a larger virtual dinner
- Host an outdoor dinner where everyone wears masks, practices social distancing, and brings their own food and utensils
"If you gather with family and friends who do not live with you, you can increase the chances of you getting COVID-19," said Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard.
Bernard said there have been more than 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 in Florida in just the last week, including 563 new cases in Palm Beach County on Thursday, the most since Aug. 1.
"We might be tired of the virus, but the virus is not tired of us. And its intent is to infect as many people as it can," said Dr. Kleper de Almeida, an internal medicine and infectious disease specialist at JFK Medical Center.
Dr. de Almeida reminded residents that prevention is as simple as wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, avoiding crowded, enclosed spaces, and washing and sanitizing your hands frequently.
Bernard admitted that if the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise rapidly, county commissioners may be forced to put restrictions on local businesses.
"We're watching the numbers very closely in the county. We're seeing the numbers going up," Bernard said. "If the numbers continue to go up, most likely the commission will probably come up with a decision in regards to reducing hours or something like that."
Officials said any restrictions on local businesses would have to be approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
"We are urging people, please, have a safe Thanksgiving so we can all have Thanksgiving together next year," Rep. Frankel said.