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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 1 week ago

Volusia health officials advice public against large Thanksgiving gatherings

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The CDC is recommending citizens celebrate the holidays at home with their own households.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

With cases of COVID-19 in Volusia County reaching a total of 14,562, local health officials are asking the public to follow the advice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding holiday gatherings. 

Holly Smith, communications manager for the Department of Health in Volusia County, said during a county briefing on Friday, Nov. 20, that new cases began to increase to around 90 a day in October. That figure has grown to over 100 new cases a day this week, with a 14-day positivity rate of 7.2%.

“Clearly these metrics indicate that we are not heading in the direction that we want to be headed as a community," Smith said.

The majority of new cases are occurring in households, posing a concern as the public plans Thanksgiving gatherings made up of multiple households. The CDC has recommended that the safest way to celebrate the upcoming holiday is at home with the people with whom you live.

“Following this advice is not convenient for any of us but it is how we can decrease our chances of catching COVID-19 and how we can prevent others, and that’s including our friends and family from contracting the virus," Smith said. "A little bit of inconvenience this year can help to protect those who matter to you and that can make for wonderful holidays in the years to come.” 

Dr. Joe Smith, chief medical officer at AdventHealth DeLand, said that while cases are on the rise, their hospital system is not seeing an increase of critically-ill patients in Volusia County. However, he cautioned citizens against taking this as a sign precautions can be dropped. Instead, he said it should be viewed as evidence that the safety measures are working. 

Both Dr. Smith and Holly Smith spoke about possible vaccine distribution and the plans in place. Holly Smith said DOH began planning for distribution in early summer and that it will be a joint effort with hospitals, pharmacies, and municipalities. 

Dr. Smith said AdventHealth has been selected as one of five entities to distribute the vaccine in the state, and his optimistic prediction is that the first recipients — likely higher-risk frontline health care workers — could receive it within the next two-three weeks. 

“We do have very robust plans," he said. "We do have the ability to store and handle the vaccines regardless of the manufacturer.”

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