CDC: Rapid test your Thanksgiving guests before dinner
As you settle on who is bringing the cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing for your Thanksgiving feast, federal health officials are suggesting you add one more item to your list: a COVID-19 rapid test.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says families planning large gatherings should add an "extra layer of protection" and have everyone take a rapid test before they are allowed into your home.
Speaking at Monday's virtual COVID briefing, Walensky said, "Get vaccinated if you're not yet vaccinated, and ideally to practice safe prevention measures before heading into gathering numerous households together. But.....one extra layer of protection that you might take is to take a rapid test before you gather together."
That suggestion drew criticism from some medical professionals, who warned about the high rate of false positive, or false negatives, with rapid testing.
Walensky and White House Senior Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci also kept pressing for more to get vaccinated and for booster shots. "Clearly not only do boosters work," Fauci said, "They work even better than the peak dose - the peak response after the second dose."
The urgings and recommendations come as New Jersey and the nation continue to see a spike in COVID cases.
New Jersey's rate of transmission is now at 1.23 and hospitalizations have spiked above 800. New Jersey State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli warns that number could top 2,000 without further mitigation.
Persichilli also recommended masking up for Thanksgiving and testing if you have symptoms.
New Jersey State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan suggests some people may want to skip Thanksgiving altogether. "Its hard to say around the holidays, because we want to be together," Tan said, "But if you're sick we have to think about protecting other individuals and try to not partake in some of those events."
However, state health officials did say despite the sharp increase in new COVID cases, there is less concern this year than in 2020 because New Jersey has a high vaccination rate and new treatments are better able to mitigate the most serious symptoms of infection.
Gov. Phil Murphy urged caution, but also for everyone to enjoy the holiday. It was a far different message from the Governor than in 2020 when he urged people to eat outside, open doors and windows and avoid loud talking or singing.
"If you are with people you have a high degree of confidence in and you know their vaccine status, have at it." Murphy said chuckling, "Raise hell. Have a great Thanksgiving."