PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There were renewed warnings Tuesday from Philadelphia officials about Thanksgiving. There has also been a big increase in people wanting testing for COVID-19 in preparation for the holiday.
But there are new limits on testing in the city.
COVID testing in Philadelphia is again being limited to people at-risk and for those hoping a negative test will allow them to safely celebrate Thanksgiving with others. Health officials say that could be dangerous.
“We are all very concerned about family gatherings for the upcoming holiday,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.
Officials are worried people aren’t taking their warnings seriously to only celebrate Thanksgiving with your immediate household.
One indicator is a big increase in demand for COVID testing, with people thinking a negative result gives the green light to safely be around others.
“Everybody was like, we should still get tested to be safe and be sure,” Luke Butler said.
“A negative test can be a false sense of security,” Dr. Farley said.
COVID testing isn’t 100% accurate and you can be infected but not have enough virus to show up on a test. Plus, you can become infected hours or days after a negative test.
“Just because you have a negative test doesn’t mean you are not risky to others,” said Dr. Farley.
He also says testing sites in the city are at or near capacity and results are often now delayed. Because of that, Dr. Farley is recommending that only people who’ve been exposed or have symptoms should get tested.
“Those are the people who are more likely to be positive, who we want to identify as quickly as possible to contain the spread,” Dr. Farley said.
Deaths and hospital cases have continued to increase, along with the number of cases in nursing homes. But the overall number of new daily cases has leveled off slightly.
However, another surge is expected about two weeks after Thanksgiving, just in time for Christmas.
“This holiday season, like this entire year, is totally different. For some people these next few months will be tremendously difficult and even traumatic,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
Crowding around the dining room table this Thanksgiving dinner is so 2019. This year, nearly one in four Americans — 74% — say they’re staying home for the holiday, according to a new Monmouth University poll.
Farley says he’s still concerned about those who plan to make the trip to grandma’s house for that big turkey dinner.
“Please, please celebrate Thanksgiving with members of your immediate household. You don’t want to spread COVID to your elderly grandmother or to that cousin of yours that has a chronic medical condition,” Farley said.
At the 30th Street Station, most people Eyewitness News approached said they were not there to travel for the holiday. Many who were making the trip to see relatives did not want to speak on camera, but one couple did.
“I see this as somewhat of an overreaction,” a traveler named Joshua said.
That’s why Joshua and his wife Charity say they will continue to travel and see loved ones this week and for the rest of the holiday season.
“I mean, we take precautions, we don’t put anyone in danger purposefully. I’m considerate of other people’s space and other people’s preferences for sure. But at the same time, I believe in freedom and I see a lot of this as the government taking the opportunity and capitalizing on this to take away some of the freedoms we’ve had for some time,” Joshua said.
But hope is coming. Dr. Farley says the city expects the first batches of vaccine to arrive in the third week of December. The doses will first go to medical personnel caring for COVID patients.
He hopes everyone else will be able to get it in the spring.
CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl and Greg Argos contributed to this report.
MORE ON CBSPHILLY.COM