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Time will tell Thanksgiving’s COVID-19 impact

Local health officials say the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on COVID-19 spread will start to be seen in about a week.

The incubation period for the virus ranges between two to 14 days, and most people start experiencing symptoms around five days after an exposure, according to Essex County Senior Public Health Educator Andrea Whitmarsh. Because of that, paired with test turnaround times, it will take some time before the effect of Thanksgiving gatherings will begin to emerge.

“If we are going to see a spike, we would start to see cases increase about a week after Thanksgiving, with the concern being for wider community spread for weeks following the holiday,” Whitmarsh said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has estimated that about half of coronavirus spread happens before people start experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease the virus causes. That means people can expose others before they have any idea they’re positive.

“In addition, remember that people may also have no symptoms whatsoever and can still transmit the virus to others,” Dr. Tracey Henderson, a pediatrician at Adirondack Health’s Tupper Lake Health Center, said Tuesday. “The health department usually recommends people be tested five to seven days after a known exposure, when the PCR test is most likely to be positive. This would be a reasonable time frame for testing after a family gathering, but is not a substitute for mask-wearing and physical distancing, and can provide false reassurance because it may not pick up a case that is still in its incubation period.”

Information on how to be tested, and when testing is available at Saranac Lake’s Adirondack Medical Center, can be found at www.adirondackhealth.org/covid-testing. The AMC COVID Clinic is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Franklin County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack said those who think they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should self-quarantine.

“If you require a legal quarantine, a contact tracer will call you,” she said Wednesday.

Legal quarantine is typically triggered when a person is identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive, when a person travels from a place under a travel advisory, or when a person begins experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is awaiting test results. This status transitions from “quarantine” to “isolation” when a person tests positive for COVID-19.

Hospital stands at ready

As was seen in the early weeks of the pandemic here, a rise in cases as a result of holiday gatherings would also have an impact on local hospitals, which have limited ICU capacity.

Administrators have already outlined plans for how the hospital will respond in the event of a sudden surge in cases.

“Adirondack Medical Center possesses eight licensed beds in the intensive care unit, with the capability to scale up to 12 beds in the event of a patient surge,” Aaron Kramer, Adirondack Health’s chief operating officer, said Tuesday. “As of this morning, four of those beds were occupied.”

“There are nine ventilators on site, and we would ‘split’ ventilator capacity as necessary to accommodate the 12-bed ICU surge level,” he added. “We have a patient surge plan on file with the state health department, which is reviewed and revised on a very regular basis. Adirondack Health is also in compliance with the state health department’s directive that hospitals keep a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment stockpiled.”

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