As Polk County residents prepare to celebrate yet another holiday in the midst of a global pandemic, the Polk County Health Center has again shared a message of celebration mixed with caution.
Thanksgiving — a holiday best known for large gatherings of family and friends around the dinner table — comes at a time the health center has issued a public health advisory via social media due to Polk County’s “current positivity rate and red zone status.”
This week alone, Polk County has recorded three new deaths related to COVID-19 and 131 new cases.
Per the advisory, the county’s current positivity rate is 14.5%, with Polk County recently adding 605 positive cases of COVID-19 over 33 days.
The advisory states that of Missouri’s 114 counties, 111 are in the red zone, per the White House COVID-19 report. Polk County ranks 51 in new coronavirus cases in the state.
Polk County’s average seven-day case count jumped from 14.7 to 22.3 cases last week, the advisory states.
The advisory states hospitalizations at Citizens Memorial Hospital have increased by 73%.
As of Friday, Nov. 13, Polk County had 46 cases per 1,000 people, the advisory states. In comparison, St. Louis had 33 cases per 1,000 people, Springfield had 42 and Kansas City had 56.
“Polk County residents are expected to wear a mask and practice physical distancing when with those outside their household,” the advisory states.
The advisory also states residents “are strongly encouraged to stay home and limit gatherings to close contacts only during the holiday season.”
Carol Bookhout, community educator and public information officer with the Polk County Health Center, said this is the year to establish new holiday traditions.
“We encourage Polk County residents to stay home and celebrate with their close family,” Bookhout said. “If you choose to attend a large gathering or travel, remember to mask, practice physical distancing and keep your hands washed often.”
She said people should consider doing a self-quarantine for 14 days before and after a large Thanksgiving gathering.
“Most importantly, spend time reflecting on all the good 2020 has brought to our lives and the many reasons we can be thankful this year,” Bookhout said.
More than just turkey
Bookhout offered several alternative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving beyond traditional holiday gatherings.
She said people can take advantage of technology by binge watching the same TV show with friends and family outside the home and talk about favorite episodes later via Zoom.
Bookhout said people can host a virtual meal by organizing a “dine time for the family through Zoom.” She also suggested hosting a live Thanksgiving play.
“Using Zoom, have a grandparents' storytelling time,” Bookhout said.
An online search of “Zoom games for Thanksgiving” will give people “a plethora of ideas” for technology-based fun, Bookhout said.
Because food is an important element in Thanksgiving celebrations, Bookhout said people can “prepare desserts or favorite dishes for family members and leave them on a doorstep,” or create a new recipe or spin-off of an old favorite.
“Be sure to involve the kids,” she said.
She also suggested teaching children the proper way to set a table and practice for the Thanksgiving meal.
“Do a recipe swap to create ideas for the Thanksgiving meal,” she said. “Zoom while sharing and preparing the recipes.”
People can get creative, Bookhout said, making a keepsake tablecloth full of Thanksgiving thoughts from 2020 or writing thank you notes for family and friends, sending them in the mail or leaving them on doorsteps with small gifts of appreciation.
“Have a fall decorating contest,” Bookhout said. “Take photos or drive by the homes participating and submit votes for the best decoration.”
She said people can also create “Thankful for …” ornaments and put up a Thanksgiving tree or have a themed mask contest, submitting photos and voting for the best mask.
Bookhout also suggested getting outdoors.
“Go for a walk or hike on Thanksgiving day after the meal,” she said. “Or, have a small gathering around a campfire where social distancing is in place and listen to the stories under the stars.”
She also suggested having a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt.
“Enjoy down time by reading a family book, looking through old photos or playing a board game,” Bookhout said.