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Photo by Michael Minasi/KUT. A candle tribute to Travis County residents who have died from Covid-19 complications is set up outside the Long Center on Oct. 29. The temporary memorial featured 450 battery-powered candles for 450 deaths at the time.

Austin health officials plead with residents to stay home for Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2020 by Trey Shaar

Local health officials are hoping people will heed the warnings about gatherings outside the household this week to avoid a repeat of what happened after other holidays this year.

Most coronavirus numbers are still moving in the wrong direction in Austin and Travis County. There appears to be some improvement in recent days in the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus, but the average remains above 5 percent and well above the target of 3 percent.

Austin Public Health Deputy Medical Director Dr. Jason Pickett issued a stark warning at Tuesday’s briefing of the Travis County Commissioners Court.

“We’ve seen families that were devastated by gatherings after Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and we don’t want to see that same thing happen after Thanksgiving as well,” he said.

Pickett said if people are going to gather outside their households or hold gatherings themselves, he hopes they will, at least, take some precautions.

“Can you stagger people who are visiting so that you don’t have 20, 30 people all together in the same room at the same time? Can we gather outside instead of inside? Can we wear masks when we’re together?” he said. “All these things can help prevent the spread of the virus.”

Austin Public Health is asking that schools stick to remote learning in the week following Thanksgiving. That would allow some time to watch for signs that the region is headed into a worsening spike in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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