Mid-South leaders asking residents to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – – As COVID-19 continues to spread, Mid-South leaders are asking everyone to spend Thanksgiving with fewer people. 


“If you can avoid a gathering you should consider doing that,” Dr. Lisa Piercey with the Tennessee Department of Health said, “If you can minimize the number of people, particularly those outside the household you should consider doing that.”


Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is concerned about large gatherings with half the state’s counties, including Desoto, under a mask mandate because of a surge in cases.


“I’m not gonna stand up here and tell you, you can’t do it,” Gov. Reeves said, “But I will tell you that the risk is greater today than it has been at any time since August.”


Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is particularly worried about college students.


“Students go home, they come back,” Gov. Hutchinson said, “Did they protect themselves? Did they keep distance? Wear a mask?”


Health officials are stressing caution this holiday with a vaccine reportedly coming in the near future. The Tennessee Department of Health expects a vaccine around December 15th and plans to give the first doses to front line healthcare workers and first responders. It’s unclear when the vaccine would be available to everyone.


“We will be moving through our phases as the supply allows,” Dr. Piercey said.


Arkansas and Mississippi health officials have similar plans and also expect tens of thousands of doses sometime next month.


“Until that time comes, however, we have to bridge the gap,” Gov. Reeves said.


“Let’s take those extra precautions this (Thanksgiving) so there are no empty chairs at the table when we gather next (year),” Dr. Wendy Long with the Tennessee Hospital Association said.


Shelby County health officials expect a vaccine in Mid-December. It’ll take time before it’s available to everyone but officials say it will be free even if you don’t have health insurance.

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