With coronavirus cases surging in the region, and deaths on the rise, a survey from the University of Maryland Medical System finds that 4 in 10 Marylanders were unwilling to change their in-person Thanksgiving plans because of the coronavirus.
Elected leaders and public health officials from throughout the region and across the country have tightened restrictions in recent days and implored residents not to celebrate the holiday with anyone outside their immediate household.
But the online survey, conducted Nov. 16-23 among 525 residents in central and Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, found that 44 percent said they were not altering Thanksgiving or other holiday plans.
David Marcozzi, a physician who led the project, said the results dismayed him.
“It’s disappointing, the lack of recognition that this virus will not take a holiday, it’s silently waiting for an opportunity to spread between us,” he said. “We’re setting ourselves up for a perfect storm. … You have the potential for multiple small superspreader events.”
The survey, which has a margin of error of 4.9 percent, did not include Montgomery County, which is Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction, or the western panhandle of the state. But it did include Prince George’s County in the Washington region, as well as Baltimore.
Respondents in more rural areas were less likely to say they have canceled in-person holiday plans than those in central Maryland. Women, older adults and those with higher education levels were more likely to have changed holiday plans.
[Planning a Thanksgiving trip? Many in the D.C. region are staying put]
In Montgomery, officials on Wednesday pleaded with residents to avoid large gatherings over the holiday and warned that authorities would be ramping up enforcement of physical distancing rules. The county reported 383 new coronavirus infections, bringing its seven-day average to triple what it was a month ago.
“We have broken records time and time again in the past week,” Health Officer Travis Gayles said at a briefing. “If I’m sounding bleak or sounding concerned, it’s because we certainly are.”
Earl Stoddard, head of emergency management, said county police will join state police in patrolling high-density areas such as Silver Spring and Bethesda to ensure that businesses and individuals comply with health orders.
Since the start of the pandemic, the county has levied $500 fines on businesses 30 times for violating physical distancing or mask-wearing requirements, Stoddard said. Officials have also closed or suspended seven businesses for a time.
Gayles said community transmission of the virus has become so widespread in the county that it is increasingly difficult to conduct contact tracing. Officials said they are seeing a growing number of cases associated with family gatherings, youth sports, indoor dining and houses of worship.
“It would be easier if there was one type of activity we could isolate,” Gayles said, “but there’s lots of different possibilities now.”
[Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia]
In the District, acting D.C. city administrator Kevin Donahue told members of the D.C. Council on