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Will Thanksgiving cause a COVID-19 spike in the Utah? Canada could be a good example

Canada saw a COVID-19 increase in the two weeks after Thanksgiving, a sign for what could happen in the U.S.

Associated Press

Public health officials are warning Americans to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thanksgiving is believed to lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases, which has led to public health officials encouraging Americans to avoid dinners with family.

Will it happen? Well, a smaller but similar country to the north of the U.S. — Canada — just went through this. So let’s look at what happened there.

What happened in Canada:

Canada celebrated Thanksgiving on Oct. 12. The country had 185,300 total cases on that day.

Canada saw 4,000 cases reportedly daily over the next two weeks. The country’s total case count jumped to 222,900 by that time, according to John Hopkins University.

Thanksgiving was likely the cause of the jump, experts said.

But was it Thanksgiving?

Dr. Laura Rosella, associate professor and epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said there was evidence that Thanksgiving was to blame.

“We were seeing an increase of cases leading up to Thanksgiving,” Rosella told CBS News. “Cases were indeed increasing already, but we definitely saw an increase in the rate of transmission after Thanksgiving. And we know that Thanksgiving is important for a couple of reasons. One is through contact tracing data.”

Rosella told CBS News that the numbers could have been higher. Many people avoided large gatherings for the holiday so the numbers weren’t as high as possible.

Is this a sign for Utah’s future?

From a numbers perspective, Canada and Utah might have more in common than we think. By Thanksgiving, Canada had seen 185,300 total COVID-19 cases. Utah has had 182,121 cases on its own as of Wednesday (that number is surely to jumped heading into Thursday).

The rolling seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is 3,284 per day in Utah, and the average positive test rate is 23%. Without Thanksgiving as a factor, you’d expect Utah’s case numbers to hit around 228,000 total COVID-19 cases in two weeks.

Since there’s no statewide limit on small gatherings, Utah’s numbers could far surpass where Canada was within the next two weeks. That said, Canada is now seeing cases in the 340,000 range, so Utah would still need time to hit that mark.

But if you’re wondering what could happen to Utah, Canada might be a place to look.