▶ Watch Video: Coronavirus and the risk of Thanksgiving holiday travel

With coronavirus cases rising across the country, families should have “tough conversations” before they decide to gather for Thanksgiving or other holidays, emergency care physician Dr. Ron Elfenbein said on CBSN Monday. 

The United States reported more than 81,000 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, after setting a one-week record for new cases. Hospitalizations and deaths are also increasing in numerous states. To date, more than 231,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Health experts have warned that gatherings for the upcoming holidays could worsen the surge in cases, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, recently told CBS News his adult children won’t be coming home this year to help keep him safe.

One of the first questions anyone thinking about hosting a holiday gathering should ask is how many people would attend. 

“The higher the number of people that are going to be attending, the higher the risk to you and to everyone else that’s there,” Elfenbein said. 

Other factors to consider include where people are coming from and what precautions they have been taking. 

“If you’re going to have a family get-together, these are the kinds of things you have to ask these people who you’re inviting. Where have you been? How careful are you? Where are you coming from? How are you getting here? What’s your means of travel?” Elfenbein said. 

He also advised asking family and friends if they have been wearing masks and social distancing, which are recommended by health officials to slow the spread of the virus. 

“That’s a tough conversation to have to have but it’s an important conversation to have to have,” he said. “You’re talking about a potentially deadly virus that nobody wants to get.”

Elfenbein said if family members are willing to self-isolate for two weeks prior to a gathering, that is one way to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. 

“That would be fantastic if people would all do that, but you’ve got to make sure everybody’s really adhering to that,” he said. “Remember, all it takes is one little slip-up and you can potentially infect yourself.” 

He also cautioned that even if people self-isolate before the holiday, if they need to travel, they could be exposed along the way.

“You kind of have to look at a risk-benefit chart. I hate to put this in clinical terms, but do the risks outweigh the benefits or do the benefits outweigh the risks?” he said. “How much of a risk are you willing to accept? People just have to have these frank discussions with their family members. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s something that you really need to do.”

Getting tested is another precaution people can take, which Elfenbein said he plans to do before seeing his own family. However, there is still a risk of exposure after being tested. 

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