HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With Thanksgiving fast approaching and COVID-19 cases increasing in almost every state, health experts are warning the public to avoid certain rituals of the holiday and advising that exercising these cautions could make a big difference in preventing more cases and more deaths.
"I need your help in helping us blunt that curve from going up," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in a press conference on Monday, referring to the growing COVID-19 positivity rate in the city.
Currently, the rate is at 8.8% this week, up from 7.9% last week, said Turner.
On Thursday, the CDC recommended people not travel to see loved ones for the holiday, to help minimize the risk of spreading the virus. But the TSA screened about 2 million flyers at airports across the country this weekend.
"It is not safe for people to gather in large groups, sit down at the table with people outside of their immediate households," Turner said. "Remember, we don't want to invite COVID-19 to the dinner table."
For families who want to celebrate with other loved ones, experts recommend planning activities over video chat. If anyone is inviting guests to their home, authorities suggest eating outside when possible and using safety measures like face masks and physical distancing.
"Imagine the heartbreak of losing a loved one now when you know all you had to do was get them to hang on a couple more months," Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said to ABC13 last week, alluding to several vaccines that have shown high rates of being effective.
Joining Mayor Turner at Monday's press conference was Dr. David Persse, the city's top health authority, who outlined how a vaccine, once approved, will be distributed in Houston.
Health care workers providing care to COVID-19 patients and their immediate support personnel will receive a vaccine first, followed by vulnerable populations like EMS teams, Persse said. The Houston Health Department will also work to ensure vaccines are delivered to communities that have an increased risk of being infected.
"We've identified 333 Houston health care providers - COVID-19 vaccine providers. Another 250 within Harris County, are all registered to participate in the vaccination program," Persse said.
In Houston and Harris County, the number of COVID-19 cases currently surpasses 180,000 and the number of deaths is just under 3,000.