Thanksgiving dinners could lead to COVID-19 spike: epidemiologist

Thanksgiving marks yet another pandemic holiday, and one epidemiologist is reminding Manitobans to remain careful to avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases.

This weekend, many Manitobans are excited to see family for the first time in a while.

"Well, we're just going to family's this afternoon, but yesterday we had dinner at another family member's, and you know it's pretty peaceful, pretty quiet this year," said Jody Stanton.

Ben Henning, who is heading to his in-law’s for dinner to celebrate the holiday, said it has been a long time coming.

"We're all vaccinated, so we are all safe," said Henning.

"We are doing the responsible things. Trying to stay out of trouble and keeping the love real.

Other Manitobans aren't quite ready to have large gatherings yet.

"It's just a regular weekend with COVID and everything going on. It's just another year where we will be waiting," Randy Kendall, who is staying home this Thanksgiving.

Staying home might not be a bad idea.

Winnipeg-based epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said Thanksgiving last year caused a large spike in COVID-19 cases.

"I think eight new cases per 100,000 on average right now, which is actually higher than where we were last year," she said. "We don't want to see a five-fold increase like we did last year."

To help try and stop the spread, the province implemented new gathering limit restrictions ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Households are limited to guests from one other household for indoor private gatherings if an unvaccinated person, who is eligible to be vaccinated, is in attendance.

Households are also limited to ten guests for outdoor private gatherings when an unvaccinated person, who is eligible to be vaccinated, is on the property.

However, Carr said, even with the vaccine, gatherings like Thanksgiving present unique issues.

"Family gatherings, friend gatherings often are multigenerational with older people and younger people. So again, you could have a mix of people who aren't vaccinated if they're too young or older people,” she said.

On Friday, there were 130 new COVID-19 cases; 90 among unvaccinated individuals, seven among partially-vaccinated people, and 33 in fully vaccinated individuals.

Carr said while the vaccine is effective in preventing severe outcomes, fully vaccinated individuals can still catch the virus.

"It is the case like any other vaccine that even fully vaccinated can become infected with COVID-19," said Carr.

Despite pandemic-related changes, Manitobans are still excited to have a Thanksgiving dinner.

"It's the best. It's absolutely the best thing," said Stanton.