CHICAGO — Carrie Mangoubi had a plan for Thanksgiving.
She'd ask her guests to quarantine for two weeks before the holiday, or quarantine for one week and then get tested for COVID-19 right before Thanksgiving. Her family members agreed to the arrangement.
But amid travel concerns and rising cases of COVID-19, Mangoubi, 40, abandoned her plan to host the holiday dinner. She now anticipates a quiet Thanksgiving at her Chicago home with her husband and two young children.
Mangoubi isn't the only one weighing the role that COVID-19 testing can play as the holidays approach. Families across the Chicago area, who are desperate to save Thanksgiving, are wondering whether testing can bring peace of mind to their dinner tables. .
"It's a very difficult question," said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It sounds like it should be so easy, but it's not easy at all."
Some medical experts say testing could add a layer of protection when combined with quarantining before the holiday. Others say families are better off sticking to other strategies, such as masks, social distancing or avoiding in-person gatherings altogether.
The Illinois Department of Public Health encourages people to get tested before and after any gatherings and to curb activities outside their homes before getting together. But at a recent event, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, asked, "Do we want to sit with people at Thanksgiving, and weeks later attend their funeral?"
About 35% of 1,005 Americans surveyed in late October, as part of an Ipsos poll, said they plan to have smaller-than-usual Thanksgiving gatherings. About 5% said they plan to get a COVID-19 test before celebrating, and 5% said they'll ask everyone attending their festivities to get tested.
'Not worth the risk'
The state health department recommends limiting the number of guests at gatherings, maintaining six feet of distance when indoors and wearing masks except when eating and drinking.