West Virginians are about to face the toughest test to date when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a time when many in the Mountain State and throughout the nation travel to be with family, friends and other loved ones. While people certainly travel some for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, often to recreational destinations, it’s nothing compared to Thanksgiving — where almost everyone has some sort of long-established tradition of gathering together, sometimes with people they’ll only see on that holiday.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising Americans to stay home, as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket. Over the past week, more than a million new cases were detected in the United States, and deaths surpassed 250,000.
In West Virginia, the pandemic is the worst it has ever been. Active cases topped 12,000 for the first time Friday morning, according to numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Resources. New cases are typically topping 1,000 per day. Double-digit death counts have become the norm, with another 16 reported Friday morning, bringing the total to 639.
Also as of Friday morning, there were 402 West Virginians hospitalized because of COVID-19. Of those, 120 were in intensive care and 51 were on ventilators.
West Virginia’s first major surge in cases and deaths came in the weeks after Memorial Day. Subsequent holidays have shown similar patterns. Thanksgiving can be especially dangerous, given that many typically gather with family and friends of a range of ages, and the virus hits the elderly and those with underlying, chronic health problems hardest.
The virus already has forced the closure of several West Virginia school districts. More will surely have to cancel in-person instruction, if a Thanksgiving surge occurs. And that might be the least of worries in the Mountain State, given the high rate of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths already.
Stay home. Call your loved ones. Have a virtual gathering over Zoom or FaceTime or something similar, if you can. It won’t be the same. It won’t be easy. But it’s the right thing to do for yourself, your family and even strangers, who could become sick or die because of someone’s selfish decision to travel and gather.
It’s truly sad this is the way it has to be this year. That’s the thing about living through a historic, once-in-a-generation pandemic. It’s no fun, but the sacrifices made are vitally important to keeping fellow West Virginians healthy and alive for Thanksgivings to come.