UT Health San Antonio issues warning about possible post-holiday COVID-19 outbreak

SAN ANTONIO – Doctors at UT Health San Antonio are joining top health experts nationwide by warning San Antonians that Thanksgiving needs to be different this year or we may be in for a dark winter.

Sacrificing large family indoor gatherings, food buffets, getting together for holiday cocktails or shopping without social distancing are among the activities that people are being asked to stay away from this Thanksgiving or possibly face the consequences later.

Dr. Robert Leverence, chief medical officer at UT Health San Antonio, said whereas the aftermath of Memorial Day gatherings was an eight on a “Coronavirus Richter Scale,” post-Thanksgiving would be a whole new level of sickness.

“About a 20, I would guesstimate. If you look already at the other COVID curves for the number of new diagnoses per day in this country, we’ve already towered way over Memorial Day,” Leverence said.

Leverence said the national numbers are worse than infection rates in Texas, which he would guesstimate at around 10 or 15 on the fictitional Richter scale. He is going against the most popular modeling being used nationally, but Leverence thinks they are likely too conservative.

“With Thanksgiving and all the shopping and all the traveling and all the gathering, we’d be naive to think that we’re going to get, you know, get off the hook and have a lesser surge than we had over Memorial Day,” Leverence said.

To assume San Antonio would be an island among a serious new wave of infections would be unlikely.

Leverence said he thinks a lot of people are considering the coronavirus warnings about the holiday much like you might consider a gamble, but on a personal level.

“You’re playing the odds with your brother or sister or your mom or dad or your uncle or your aunt, because if you infect one of them, they may not do as well as you might do,” he said.

Leverence’s advice is to take advantage of the comfortable South Texas temperatures expected on Thanksgiving and hold your traditional meal outdoors. Instead of a buffet or side dishes being shared at the table, assign one person to serve. Do not share glasses, utensils or serving spoons. If you are not eating, wear a mask.

One final note of advice: Leverence warns that even if someone at your gathering tested negative for COVID-19, do not take for granted that they are harmless. He said particularly with rapid tests, there may not have been enough of a viral load in that “healthy” person to register as positive for coronavirus, but they can still spread it.

About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.