As families gather for Thanksgiving, COVID hospitalizations will rise

Nov 19, 2020

With COVID positivity rates climbing, much of Erie County has been designated as an "Orange" zone. It may be only the beginning for extensive restrictions.  "It's a particular concern since Thanksgiving is approaching," said Dr. Nancy Nielsen during her weekly appearance with WBFO. Large holiday gatherings will almost certainly expand the spread of the virus. "There's no question: the number of positive cases are the leading indicator, followed several weeks later by a rise in hospitalizations, so we can expect that, followed by a rise in deaths."

Dr. Nancy Nielsen is the Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB';s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Nielsen, a former President of the American Medical Association, used the words of a colleague to issue a dire warning. "One of the nation's leading infectious disease experts said this, 'Please don't gather this Thanksgiving or you may be planning a funeral at Christmas.'"

The coming weeks, Nielsen fears, will be difficult, but she is hopeful as the new year approaches. Two potential vaccines are reporting 95 percent effectiveness in large clinical studies. Also, an at-home coronavirus test could be on the way.

At first, she was skeptical.  She's reconsidered her assessment after a closer look.

"This is a molecular test. And it costs, supposedly, about 50 bucks or a little less. The person self-collects a nasal swab and then you get the results in about a half-hour. The studies on this show that it correlates very highly with the gold standard tests that we depend on," Nielsen said.

"So, this could be a game-changer."